Friday, June 25, 2010

Light Unto My Path

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he writes, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…” The Psalmists tell us that even the rocks cry out the glory of the Lord. If there is one thing impressed on my heart and soul through my time spent in Colorado, it is that God has chosen to reveal His character to me through His creation. In the hustle and bustle of what we trekkers like to refer to as the “Concrete Jungle,” I am so easily distracted and often fail to seek His character in my surroundings. But in the wilderness, God is easily seen. Each week, through my physical experience climbing a mountain, there is a new spiritual revelation to parallel it. I am consistently moved by how God uses this world to teach us of His character and Truth in the world beyond. It is this metaphor of our relationship to God through Nature that I love to lead youth to seek and find. A few years back, the roles were reversed, and a youth group led me to one particular truth that I have referred to for solace and peace for my soul in my times of greatest questioning.

College, for me, was a time of seeking and searching, trying to set my feet on a path that would lead me to Jesus the rest of my life. I felt a strong sense of gravity attached to these years and the significance my present actions and choices would have on the entirety of my life. I would often ask God “Why won’t You just tell me how things are going to work out? Why does my life so often feel like a mystery to even me?” And, as God has promised us, God heard when I called to Him and answered me from His holy hill—just not perhaps not how I had intended Him to answer.

For those of you that may have never been on a TEAM Ascend trekking experience, on Wednesday mornings, we attempt the summit, God willing, of whichever mountain we have been climbing over the course of the week. We wake up well before sunrise, ranging from 12:00 AM to 4:00 AM to take advantage of the best weather patterns and the window of opportunity to climb. This particular week, we woke up at 2:30 AM.

The still dark night is shaken by the staffs’ renown ringing cries of “Wakie! Wakie!,” our most beloved alarm clock. The startling racket is accompanied by the gentle hum of the stoves heating up water beneath our crew flies. Slowly, the tents begin to rustle and flashlights bounce around inside the tents like fireflies in a Mason jar. The first campers groggily emerge from their abbreviated slumber and prepare for the day’s journey.
Thirty minutes after wake-up, we gather in a circle, turn off all our flashlights and gaze into the sky, blanketed with a multitude of speckling stars—a sight unrivaled by any city sky. We turn our lights back on and begin our ascent.

The night is cold, and as we approach sunrise and gain altitude the night only gets colder. But time passes quickly. We take regular breaks, which we try to keep as short as possible to keep from getting too cold, yet before we realize it, the sky begins to lighten in the East. You can see the distant ridges of other mountains scraping the horizon. Within thirty minutes, the sun peaks its head above the mountains and an immediate sense of revitalization fills the air. It is daybreak. Within the next four hours, we will have hopefully finished our ascent and be headed back into Camp. This week, just this happened. We had a beautiful summit with clear skies, and we sang our songs along with the angels in praise of the Glory of God. How Great Thou Art is never so beautiful as it is in a circle with a group of 14-year olds on top of a mountain. We spend some time on the summit in prayer, rest and praise. It is about now that the realization strikes most of the group that we now have to make it back down. We have only really completed half of our journey. The group scuttles down the mountain, moving a lot quicker than going up. We make it back to where we watched the sun rise and point in the direction of camp to show them what they had accomplished. Campers kept commenting, “Did we even go up this way?” and “Wow. This is a lot farther than I thought. I don’t remember this!” It struck me as odd that they hadn’t remembered the three hours we were hiking in the dark.

Each night, when we get back to camp, we build a fire, sing worship songs, and debrief the happenings of the day, giving the campers a chance to discuss what God is revealing to them. It was this night, and this devotional, that God gave me His answer. After we had talked for a bit about the summit climb and gone through their experience, a staff member asked the group about the difference between hiking in the dark and in the light.

Their answers surprised me. I had always liked hiking in the sun because it increased visibility and the warmth always revived me. However, the kids unanimously stated that they thought it was more difficult hiking in the light. They said that when they could see the entire ridge before them that they knew they had to climb, they were discouraged. When it was dark, they could only see the path directly before them. All they had to worry about was following the person in front of them and taking the next step that was before them.

This struck me. It is just like life. So often, I had asked God to show me the entire mountain I had to climb, yet He was the light for my path, revealing to me what I needed to know exactly when I needed to know it. In His wisdom, He still has not yet given me the overview of my journey or illuminated my entire path, perhaps because I am not yet prepared for it. I have His map, His Holy Word, and with this and His provision, I can focus on the steps just before me.

This lesson was an “ah-ha” moment for me, and in that moment I thought I would never question God’s providence again, yet amazingly enough in my humanity, I am still sometimes discouraged by the “darkness of the night.” But God has given me this story, and each time I forget and ask for the sun instead of his provision, I am reminded of this precious picture—me on my mountain and God as my headlamp—and I can pray, “Lord be the lamp unto my feet and the light unto my path.”