August 25, 2011

Off the Appalachian Trail: Journal One

Day 7,908:

There are three big lessons that God used the Appalachian Trail to teach me. Once I had learned them, the Trail was no longer needed, and so I stayed home where I had planned to stop for only two days.

While each lesson is very important and dear to me now, one of them in particular was what God used to tell me it was time to leave the Trail for now. It is an articulation of who I am; while I did not change, necessarily, I was finally able to clearly talk about how I operate in this world.

More on that later.

The first lesson the Lord taught me was one I had met before, the fact that I cannot and should not try to earn his grace, his forgiveness. He hates sin, yes; He is angry when I do sin and there are negative consequences and my relationship with Him can be clouded or hindered by sin. His love, however, is never affected by my sin, because He loves me to glorify Himself (which is not selfish, but in fact the best possible thing for me; I won't go into this only because entire books have been written on the topic).

I would get frustrated when I would read my bible and pray and I didn't feel well spiritually. Without having articulated it, I expected the Trail to instantly turn me into a pure and potent spiritual person, that being in the woods and walking would cause all my problems to just fall off. If I had been able to articulate this and think clearly about it, I would have realized then how silly and against all patterns of growth. We become patient and mature through longsuffering, and sin takes some time to deal with even when you are mourning it and striving after God.

The second lesson was a product of the simplicity of trail life. Each day, I only concerned myself with one thing beyond basic survival, and that was walking toward Mount Katahdin. My time spent with God during this trip was special because there was hardly anything else to compete with it, and when I did have devotions I would often get to have them in a very beautiful place (one place early on was a small wooden bench across from a small waterfall).

This lesson finally manifested itself when I got home. My time had been spent on walking and with God on the Trail, and I found myself tiring of things that weren't God much more quickly. By "things" I mean distractions that aren't themselves wrong but can easily be vehicles of distraction from God. After the time I had spent with God on the Trail, I could see everything a little more clearly contrasted to Him. Not that I don't struggle with distractions at all; there's just a new awareness in me.

The last one is the one I have talked about more often because it explains a lot about me and it led, with prayer, to my decision to get off the Trail. There was a period of seven days where I was alone when I stopped for the day, if you don't count the 2 guys (different days) who got there after I went to bed. Neither of them were thru-hikers like I was, and in fact I didn't see any thru-hikers for that entire week.

For most of that week, I was very depressed. I was upset and alone. After medicals issues took me off the Trail and I was thinking about how/if/when/why/where to get back on, I realized that I had no interest in hiking sections where I knew there wouldn't be any thru-hikers due to timing. As I thought about that and the week I had gone through, I realized something about myself: other people, other human beings, are everything to me. The fact that there are people other than just me in existence excites me and the prospect of human connection has always fascinated me. I realized that without other people, things are meaningless for me. That's how much of an extrovert I am. Granted, I do need my alone time once in a while, but my introvert meter usually fills up within about an hour and a half of sitting somewhere with my Bible.

There you have it. My apologizes this did not go up sooner. I hope to update more frequently with what is going on in my life and how God is involved; he always is, and if nothing else I can write about my life to serve as a reminder that God's around no matter what.

You may have noticed the days indicator at the top. On the Trail, my updates were always marked with the day of my journey. 7,908 is the number of days I have been alive. Life is the greatest adventure of all, and numbering each of my days helps me to remember that fact. The stories of our lives are the fairytales and fantasies of Narnia and Middle Earth; we must not forget how much meaning is tied to every day of our lives.

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