Six years ago two friends convinced me to try something new: Backpacking. Most of my activities up to then had been more traditional sports. So when they asked me to go for a 52 mile walk in the desert with 45lbs on my back I hesitated a bit. “I can’t get the time off.” You can get the time off. “I don’t have the gear.” We can loan you the gear. “I won’t know what to do.” We’ll show you what to do. Jeff and Larry removed every excuse I could come up with and I went. A day doesn’t go by that I’m not thankful for their persistence and that experience. It wasn’t just a great trip. God used that trip to work in two specific areas of my life.
I arrived at the trailhead that night as a total mess. I was struggling in every area of responsibility. I was lacking confidence as a husband, father, pastor, friend, and man. And beyond my questions about time, gear, and know-how I was being hounded by the BIG question: “Do I have what it takes?” For five long days I would carry that question with me which was much heavier than anything in my pack. John Eldredge, author of Wild at Heart, says that is the question every man needs to answer. We need to put ourselves in situations where we’re confronted by it.
Last February I was hiking with 12 great young leaders and we discussed this question. Brandon pointed out that we should not be left alone to answer such a big question. “Do I have what it takes?” should only be answered in community. Until I started backpacking that type of community was missing in my life.
The other area God began to work in had to do with the rhythm of my life. I was the perfect example of the phrase, “If you don’t control your calendar your calendar will control you.” I believe God wired into us the need for sabbath which is the keystone of our schedule. It is not simply time off or they day you go to church. There is a pattern of preparation, participation, and reflection. Treks became sabbath for me. They helped me to think of sabbath in a very Hebrew way. I would spend time preparing for it. Then I participated in it. Then I spend time reflecting on it until it was time to prepare for the next.
Every February since then I’ve prepared for a backpacking trip…every February except this one. So I’m feeling a bit out of rhythm. Fortunately I get to spend some time this weekend with a few of my friends who God has used to teach me, shape me, and who not only ask but help me answer great questions.