A dumb little story from the Appalachian Trail (dumb but true):
Last week my son and I spent a few days backpacking on the Appalachian Trail along the Tennessee/North Carolina border. Our last day out we decided to combine 2 days worth of mileage into one day. The reason? We wanted to be sure to catch game number one of the Stanley Cup playoffs on TV – cheering for our Chicago Blackhawks!
Consequently, we walked 18 miles that day. 18 miles ascending steep hills and descending steep hills. 18 miles with 30 pounds on my back. 18 miles that almost killed me! (I must say though, it was worth it to see the Hawks game as we devoured a pizza in our hotel room.)
In the last few hours of my hiking that day, I was exhausted and I became very crabby. With my son? No. With myself, perhaps? No.
I became belligerent and crabby with the mountain itself! When I came to the foot of another steep ascent (rather than a much easier descent or some level pathway) I fumed. When I rounded a sharp switchback and discovered we were not yet at the top of the mountain – but still had a long way to go, I was enraged. It was too hard. I didn’t feel like climbing anymore. In my oxygen deprived desperation, I even tried to will the unseen path ahead of me to level out! Needless to say, it did not work; the uphill climbs were still there!
Eventually I realized the path set before me was not going to change. Rather, my attitude needed to change. There is no doubt about it: the trail was not going to submit to me – I must submit to the trail. Only then could I face the challenge.
As I reflected on this obvious epiphany I realized that the ways of God and the will of God for me are often very similar. Often his ways for me are difficult; I would not choose the path he places me on, but he did not ask for my opinion. Often his word is a real challenge to obey – it’s plain old hard! To love my enemy, to not satisfy the desires of my sinful nature, to not retaliate when someone mistreats me, to pray as I should, to put others ahead of myself, to trust him even when I don’t understand what’s going on and everything seems chaotic and out of control – these things are difficult and often frustrate me, anger me, and even make me crabby.
What I want is for his ways to be my ways; for his will to be my will. And yet, what is true, is this:
But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever;
his intentions can never be shaken. Psalm 33:11
God used the Appalachian Trail to remind me of an important spiritual lesson: I must submit myself to God and his word; it will never be vice versa. Only then will I find strength for my path and joy for my journey and reach my destination.
Father, grant me the humility and wisdom to submit myself to your perfect will and your eternal, unchanging word. I know your path is best – help me to believe that even when it is a steep uphill. Give me the strength to walk your trail.