As some of you may know, our family enjoys hiking together. When we were on vacation less than two weeks ago, we took some hikes as a family, but one especially stands out to me. It was a trail within the State Park where we were staying, and since it wasn’t supposed to be especially long or challenging, we decided to stop and hike it together on our way back to the cabin from another stop. Plus it had the title of “Wetlands Trail,” so we thought at least it would be pretty.
Starting out on the Wetlands Trail was a breeze. The trail was wide, pretty flat, and overall just easy going. A little ways in, however, things changed. Suddenly we were on a skinny trail barely wide enough for one person, tall grasses and thorns were brushing against us on either side, and you really had to watch your step. Out of necessity we were walking one at a time, following the back of the person in front of us, and trying not to stumble, get scratched up, or lost. Since I was not exactly prepared for this hike, I had worn my usual summer footwear (flip flops) instead of good shoes. Also, I am terrified of snakes, so I found myself constantly looking down at where my feet were about to step, as this area suddenly seemed like optimal snake turf. After what seemed like way longer than the supposed 1.2 miles it was advertised as, the trail then went into the woods and up a steep section with all kinds of switchbacks. My little guys soon started protesting and asking for a break and a drink. As this was supposed to be a measly mile of easy hiking, we had not brought much water with us and were suddenly thirsty on top of everything else. My little boys’ cheeks were scratched and we were all panting for breath just a bit and slapping at insects biting us. The trail stretched on much further ahead, but I got us turned around after a short break and headed back for our vehicle. Doubling back we knew what we were in for, and I was glad to see our van waiting for us at the trail head.
Walking on that trail got me thinking about all the other paths and trails we have taken together, then how they relate to life in general and especially living life as a Christian in this world. This has been burning on my heart since I walked that trail.
Here are some things I’ve learned about hiking in the past few years and how I think it relates to walking life’s path as a follower of God:
*Be prepared. Usually if a hike is completely miserable, it has been because I have not prepared well in some way. Either I am not wearing the right shoes, did not hydrate well, or didn’t eat something nourishing before I went. Or perhaps we didn’t pack something that we really should have. Sometimes we felt that we were well prepared, but the trail ended up much different or harder than we expected. If you are walking life’s path as a Jesus follower, you need to be prepared for that exact type of trail. Life sure throws us some curveballs, and we need to be ready for them. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what to do to be prepared for what we encounter along our paths, but here’s a reminder: pray, read the Word, pray some more, fellowship with other Believers, worship Him always and often. We need to be ready for those things we expect AND all the things we don’t.
*Follow the trail and the blazes. One of the first things we taught our kids when hiking was to look for the blazes along the trail and to stay on the path. Usually each trail has a different color and the blazes are marked on the trees. Some of the actual trails have spots that aren’t clear cut and you have to check the blazes to see where they actually are headed. Or sometimes they intersect with another trail and you have to follow the one with your color of blazes (unless you want to hop on the other trail for some reason). I have a terrible sense of direction, so I know that I shouldn’t veer off the trail lest I lose my way. Life in this world can be confusing, and we have so many things we can try to pursue. There is loads of stuff that can distract us along our path and some of it doesn’t match up to the blazes we should follow. Are you wholeheartedly pursuing Truth and the path God has placed before you, or are you distracted and wandering along all the other trails and blazes that come across your path?
*Use the buddy system. We’ve also taught our little kids to not go on a trail by themselves. We shouldn’t either. I just mentioned my awful sense of direction. When we are hiking or just traveling anywhere I am thankful for my husband, who has a very keen sense of direction. When hiking life’s trails, please don’t go it alone. Get to know and fellowship with others that share the same beliefs you do. We can help keep each other on the right path and encourage one another along the way.
*Look for the beauty around you. If you keep your eyes open along a trail, there is usually much beauty to see and experience. That trail that I mentioned at the beginning of this piece? Even though it had its challenges, I saw some extraordinary wildflowers that I didn’t see anywhere else in that entire park. I was glad that we went on it. Sometimes the toughest trails we’ve experienced have led to the most beautiful bits of scenery. They have been worth the hike. Some of the most awe inspiring moments of my life have been on the heels of or in the midst of my toughest moments. I have never felt closer to my God than when walking through the most challenging times.
*Watch out for snakes! I mentioned also in my opening bit that in that rough section of trail I was wary of snakes. A man we met earlier in the week had cautioned us that many copperheads had been seen in that area this summer. His warning kept sounding in my head as we walked through, especially as I had mere flip flops on my feet. My feet were completely unprotected! Friends, I’m sure you know where I am headed with this. Satan is out there to take us down at any opportunity he can, and we need to be ready for him. He is a crafty serpent. You may be at a place on your trail that seems easier at the moment–in those times we sometimes need to be on our guard the most!
Well, I really hope and pray that this resonates with you in some way. It really was impressed upon me to write this piece, if anything for me to take these things to heart. God bless you and keep you as you hike your own trail!