Even when led by the still small voice of our perfect God, real life messes are unavoidable; we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world.
Unlike a casual stroll in a local park, or an endorphin induced trail run, backpacking comes with a list of its own set of rules, especially in the extraordinary depths of an unsparing gorge and dry climate. While most may come prepared by a set of rules, our rules were set after this adventure began, by the lessons learned through our experiences.
We were off to a great start as we descended the switchbacks of the canyon. We had already learned our first lesson, that the terrain was unpredictable, and our second lesson was vastly approaching. Approximately two hours into the hike, we experienced a thunderous sound approaching that vibrated the ground we were standing on. It sounded as if a dam had breached and we were about the get smothered by a rush of water. We hurriedly stepped aside to the right against the mountain wall to make room for whatever extreme force was rapidly approaching. A few seconds after stepping out of the way, to our astonishment, a sting of pack mules hastily swept by us literally leaving behind a cloud of dust in its path. The sound of this force was urgently etched in our souls. While the sound was incomparable, the sight was equally astonishing. The lesson learned was to not hesitate in moving to the side after hearing this sound because the stampede, would not and could not, stop for anything in its path.
Lesson three was learned after about four hours into the descent of the ravine. A couple of the girls continued stopping along the way for pictures and repositioning their packs, while me and the other member of our team continued the trail, causing our group to separate from one another. My body was physically beginning to feel the stress from the intense path and by my steady gate I had picked up a pace that therapeutically encompassed my mind. Before I knew it, my entire self (body, soul and spirit) were fully engaged and I began hearing from the Lord. He said, “You need to lead this hike, you are not on a walk in the park. I taught you how to backpack when you were hiking the Appalachian Train in the Smoky Mountains.”
The memory of that experience was brought to my conscious mind and I instantly knew what to do to lead my team. This revelation from the Lord stopped me in my tracks. I immediately knew that we were in danger by splitting up. I was almost in a panic but stayed calm and found a boulder to hang out on while we waited for the other two team members to catch up to us.
We waited for twenty to thirty minutes before we were able to see Lisa and Maria approaching in the distance. When we were all four together again, I relayed the message that was revealed to me. I informed the group that we were not on a walk in the park, but that we were on a treacherous journey. The unforeseen, hidden hazards and the dangerous, deceptive conditions called for our immediate attention with earnest intent. Our plan was to stay together and to pick up a stride that resembled one of an army. We would keep a slow and steady pace, picking up our feet as if we were marching so that we did not waste energy tripping or stumbling. I knew from experience that this type of stride would naturally engage our minds and our spirits which was necessary for our brains to function healthily. If we were going to successfully complete the hike out and endure the adventure that lied ahead, we needed our entire beings engaged: Our spirit hearing from the Holy Spirit, our soul thinking thoughts of truth, and our brain (body) firing off chemicals as the supply source to our bodily functions.
The looks on the faces of those we passed who were on their way out, spoke to me in a way that repeatedly caught my attention. The ten miles that we hiked into the canyon were tough, but I could not imagine what it was going to be like the following day as we attempted to climb out of the gigantic, magnificent hole.
I knew that the Lord was the leader of this mission because He taught me to lead the group before reaching the state of exhaustion; He was paving our path.