It is in the quiet of the woods that I hear and feel God’s presence without distraction.Cori Strathmeyer
The Space Between is a marvelous blog I discovered recently that focuses on experiencing God in the great outdoors. On the site, Cori reflects on faith, family, hiking, yoga and other life pauses.
Her April 3 post, Walking with God, is a true gem that brought back memories of hiking in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern New Mexico over 30 years ago.
What ignited my vivid recollection was the author’s statement, “Hiking is moving meditation: miles of opportunity for prayer and reflection on scripture.”
I spent the summer of 1988 working at a Christian conference center near Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was an exquisite setting, with huge conifers, cold water creeks and mountains in every direction. There were also dozens of alluring trails in the area. I became a compulsive day hiker.
After several beginner and intermediate treks, this young buck (me) yearned for a challenge. One of my braver hiking buddies suggested a 12.4 mile (out and back) route, in the nearby Pecos Wilderness Area, that was rated difficult. It started at a picturesque creek and ended near the 12,000 foot summit of Baldy Mountain–a 3,000 foot elevation gain.
Piece of cake, right?
Please stay with me, kind reader. I promise to come to a good biblical point.
We started at sun up. It was early July, but at 8,600 feet the temperature was in the upper 30’s. You could see your breath! I shivered under my thin sweatshirt as we meandered up the narrow, winding trail.
Stands of pine and spruce trees towered above us, hiding the view of the valley below. Just when it seemed we’d been swallowed by the forest, a window appeared.
Farther up the mountain, where the trees and the air grew thinner, the trail became steep. There were so many switch backs I lost all sense of direction.
Finally, the top of “Old Baldy” came into view. I took off my backpack, next to a crystal clear lake, and sat down. That’s when it hit: EXHAUSTION. The euphoria of reaching the trail’s end suddenly gave way to wilting fatigue. Despite being 20 years old, and in top physical shape, I could barely move.
I ate the 80’s equivalent of a Power Bar and laid back on my pack. “Dear God,” I prayed, “please help me get down this mountain.”
The next thing I know my buddy kicked the sole of one my boots, “Wake up, Dave. We need to start back.” I’d been asleep for an hour!
Thank God, I was able to stand. My strength had returned! Getting down the mountain turned out to be much easier than getting up it. This provided a fine opportunity for meditation on the move.
Have you ever had an experience that lined up with scripture word for word?
“Even those who are young grow weak; young men can fall exhausted. But those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed.” — Isaiah 40:30-31 (GNT)
It’s deceptively easy to walk up a mountain–for real, or metaphorically–only to find yourself exhausted.
Jesus gets it…
“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” — Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)