“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” –Confucius
In late March, my brother Jeremiah and I watched Mom’s backpack bounce up and down and gently fade to disappearance in the misty cluster that rested in the mountain pass as she started her 2,200 mile journey from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine on the Appalachian Trail.
With a journey such as this, much can be expected to happen along the way.
Mom climbed over mighty mountain tops, passed through deep valleys, and crossed over many bridges as she continued her way to her point of destination. It was amazing to hear the wild stories she had to share when she got into a town where she had phone service.
A few months into the journey, she had crossed the Virginia line and embarked on the infamous hike through the Shenandoah mountains, and was continuing strong and steady with nothing to slow her down.
Then suddenly, my sister Katelyn gave me a call late one evening as she and her husband Jake were on their way to see Mom in the Critical Care Unit of the Harrisonburg, Virginia hospital. She had kidney stones for days, and she tried to push through but the stones blocked the passage and she went septic, with major organ failure.
Mom remained in the hospital for a week while the doctors took action to “reboot” her system. The doctors told us that if mom had not been so healthy from the walk, this story could have ended very differently.
We brought her home for two weeks so she could recuperate, gain some strength back, and prepare for what was just more than half of what she had already walked.
Many thought it was too soon for Mom to get back on the trail, but for those of us who know her best, we knew that it was time.
Fortunately, Jeremiah and I were able to not only take her back to where she had left off, but were also able to stay a week while I hiked with her and carried her pack, and Jeremiah, working remotely, dropped us off and met with us at the end of the day. They call it “slack packing”.
It wasn’t until this experience that I fully grasped the undeniable parallels of this walk to the walk of the Christian life.
In this walk, the first thing to be done was to chase the challenge. There were many mighty mountains to climb, long, deep valleys to endure, and dilapidated bridges to cross over with rushing waters beneath. We had no choice but to face these obstacles, overcome difficulties, and attack with aggression. How often do we face similar realities in our walk with Christ? How often do we have to face the obstacles the world places under our feet? The world wants nothing more than to see us stumble and fall. The fallen creation pushes us to discredit the beauty and faithfulness of God. Temptations peek to the uttermost heights in our lives, but God promises us deliverance if we only trust Him, which means the temptations have a summit. As Christians, we must chase the challenge that is set before us, to overcome, to persevere, and set out on the journey God has for us.
To walk on the trail, one must walk with wisdom. The first thing that you will notice in the mountains is that the weather is different from day to day, and sometimes moment to moment. You have to be ready for drenching rain, or sweltering heat, mosquitoes in the lowlands, and high winds on the peeks. The end of summer means the on-set of colder weather, and you must adapt to the change. You must not let the change of seasons catch you off guard, or discourage you from continuing. You must also find the balance. Do you have enough water to make it to the next spring? Are you carrying too much baggage that is slowing you down? Are you too worried about getting ahead and passing others when you should be staying behind to help others in need? The way to achieve the walk of wisdom is by walking spiritually with God as much as you are walking physically. Whether on a remote trail in the midst of the mountain pass, or in our daily life at our jobs or with our family, God wants us to walk with Him, and through that, He will give us the wisdom we need.
The final picture that was painted for me in the mystic misery of the challenging experiences was finding the joy in the journey. After some time on the trail, my legs were limping, my back was breaking, my shoulders were shaking, my hips were hurting, and my ankles were aching. On the contrary, however, my senses were full, there were lessons learned minute by minute, and my life had not been more exhilarating in quite some time. There is beauty in the ups and downs of life. The views are beautiful from the top, and the big picture is seen once the faithful climbing is done…not beforehand. Let us find the joy of the journey along the way, because God wants us to be full of His joy.
I conclude with Proverbs 16:9, which says “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” As Mom continues on the journey she sought from the beginning and makes her way through the rocks of Pennsylvania, I encourage you to find the path God has for you. Chase the challenge, walk with wisdom, find the joy in the journey, and blaze your trail in your walk with Jesus, and He will direct you faithfully to a place where you could never go on your own.
Stay encouraged, and God bless.