Over the years, my husband and I have had many adventures backpacking in many different terrains and altitudes. This summer we had the opportunity to backpack through the Hundred-Mile Wilderness in Maine at the northern end of the Appalachian Trail. Although we have hiked in various terrain, this adventure was the most challenging. We were grateful to be able to hike it and finish injury-free (besides some bruises, a few blisters, and swollen feet)! When you’re backpacking for a length of time, there is plenty of time to contemplate God and life. This time was no exception. Being in God’s creation brought several lessons regarding my relationship with God and life in general.
I did not realize how arduous and brutal the trail was until I got on it. It was like doing an obstacle course for 12 hours a day for 9 days straight! The man who shuttled us to the trail told us several times, “If it is too difficult or you get injured, although it is called a wilderness, there are 20 logging or working roads I can use to come get you.” We didn’t know what difficult was until we actually started hiking this trail. We started out traversing slick slabs of slate for several miles. This was challenging enough, but with a backpack the challenge increased as our center of balance changed. After a while, it was easy to begin to dread what was around the corner. It was hard to plan ahead (other than wearing proper shoes and clothing) because you did not know what was coming next. You might scramble up rocks, cross a stream on a log 6-feet high, step through exposed roots, ascend a steep mountain straight up, or balance on boulders across a stream. It became clear that if there was a hard way, this trail was going that way!
At first, I would see a blaze (white rectangle that marks the way of the Appalachian Trail) and think, there is no way the trail goes this way. But, sure enough, the trail would go that way! I began to learn that there was always a way to continue on the trial. The way on the trail was different depending on the terrain. Sometimes it was hugging a tree trunk, grabbing a tree root, finding a toe-hole, clutching moist moss, crawling on boulders, sliding on rocks, wading through streams, balancing on rocks in a stream, or teetering across logs in a bog. It reminded me of life. There are some things you can do to prepare (staying in God’s Word and developing a relationship with God), but many things in life you don’t prepare for specifically. However, God always is with you showing you the way and enabling you to travel down the trail He has for you. He gives you the grace at the time you need it. “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” Psalm 25:4-5.
Furthermore, different terrain was harder for me than for other people. I am short so long stretches up a rock or stream is a challenge for me. Likewise, different circumstances in life are more challenging for some than others. But comfortingly, God knows just what types of circumstances will turn us to Him and cause us to be transformed more into the image of Jesus.
Another thing I noticed was that sometimes things look right, but they are not. For example, the water in the creeks, streams, and lakes were clear and inviting to drink. However, all water needed to be boiled, filtered, or treated with chlorine. Some paths looked the way to go, but they led you away from the right path. Similarly, ways in life look right, but they are not the way of righteousness. Only God’s ways (which is communicated in His Word and through His Spirit) lead us on the right path of life.
One of the pleasant surprises on the trail was “Trail Magic”. “Trail Magic” is the phrase given to an act of good will on the trail. One day, after several hours of hiking in the rain (our rain gear, socks, and shoes were soaked), we came to a truck on the road. It was the first vehicle we had seen in days. The driver of the truck was cooking hamburgers for anyone on the trail that passed by. He also gave stove fuel to those who needed it. This is what is referred to as “Trail Magic”. We were grateful to have a warm meal that was not dehydrated first! The man providing the hamburgers and fuel would not accept any money. It was such a picture of the generosity of God and the grace He freely gives to those who love and believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32. God graciously provides for us in unexpected and satisfying ways if we will just notice.
My adventure in the Hundred-Mile Wilderness was a wonderful time of watching God provide everything I needed—strength, energy, ability, peace, wisdom, and safety. My relationship with God deepened and my understanding of life was enriched! God has many lessons for us out in His creation. Take some time to enjoy His creation this week and contemplate Him and life!