With excitement and anticipation, I loaded my backpack. Camera, camera, camera, extra batteries, hoodie, cell phone, box of raisins, water bottle …. I stand beside my van, rifling through my bag and making sure I am not forgetting something important. This was mid-afternoon hiking, so I needed to consider that a wrong turn could always leave me in the hills through the night. I decide, though heavy, my maglite flashlight is heavy but is important. It stays in the backpack.
I weave my arms through my bag straps and realize I need to re-prioritize. I take out a camera (but harvest the extra battery and memory card for the camera I keep). My little zippered bag doesn’t need to go, but the lipstick tube must come along. Chapped lips on the trail would not be good. I just guzzled a Dasani, so I the water bottle out of the bag … but leave in the fruit. I trade out my tripod for my monopod. Two less legs make a difference in weight. A few more adjustments and I decide there are no other expendables. I zip my bag and secure the van.
Paris Mountain State Park has an intricate web of tangled trails that parallel, criss-cross and weave into each other. I have done plenty of trail hiking, but these trails were much more knobby, rooty and narrow than any others I’ve hiked.
And I’ve never hiked alone.
The trees are at the start of their plunge into color. You can see the dark burgundy of dogwood leaves … they turn early. And maples are scattered about … their fiery reds and mottled orange spot the forest. But, for the most part, autumn has not settled upon these hills. It is just creeping in.
Maybe it is the lack of input from other noises, but when my hands are in the dirt
– gardening or doing yard work –
or feet moving across the ground
– hiking, walking, exercising –
when my eyes are open and the world around me silenced ….
I hear the voice of my Lord so much more clearly.
And so, I walk. And listen. And wonder, ponder, think.
I do not have a destination in mind. I am just exploring. It’s late on a Friday afternoon. The trails are truly deserted. It’s simply lovely. Time passes and I wonder how much longer I have before the light dips below the edge of the earth and
light is no more.
I turn around to retrace my tracks back to the van.
I’ve been on the Sulphur Springs trail marked with white. I’m snapping shots and watching for bursts of color and leaf-filtered light. I call myself “attentive,” but begin to question my surroundings. I don’t remember this … or that …. and then look up to see a tree marked with yellow and I know I’ve taken a wrong fork. I’m not surprised, though I am unsettled.
I laugh out loud and ask God how one trail can go THREE directions at once? I have no idea which way to go and my heart begins to race. I am getting tired, so I sit down to eat my raisins. This will help me not smell as tempting to rabid raccoons on this full moon weekend, right? That is, should I be given the opportunity to spend the night in the wild. I am thirsty and disappointed that chose to toss aside my water bottle. Even as I did it, I thought I might regret it. But, I did it anyway.
OH! I remember that I have a map in my pocket. Knowing how directionally stunted I am, I pull out the map and pray for direction. Black lines on white paper are not enough to get me “home.” And I remember that He has written me other directions, as well … but I must have them close at hand. I must pull them out and look at them.
Like His Word. I must read it. It is not enough to have a copy in my pocket – I must reach for it, open it, look at it, study it. Yet, black lines on white paper are not enough for me. I must have His direction as I walk out the steps that I read. His Spirit must guide me … lead me.
I walk and all I can think about is how I tossed that water bottle back into the van.
… the Living Water?
I do that, don’t I Lord? I set you aside because the weight appears to be more than I need on this venture. I swill You down in large quantities and then toss you aside, thinking I won’t need You for a bit. I don’t remember your worth to my health. We can live without food for days, but not water…. not Water. I am parched. I am afraid. I am lost.
But, I have the map. I have His Spirit. And He will guide me through the darkness.
The metaphor in my mind is intricate. I see Him. I hear Him.
I walk and listen and am lead from
and rabid, raisin-loving raccoons.