Earlier this month, I had the unique opportunity to go backpacking in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado for six days with nine other men, none of whom I had ever met face to face before. The trip’s organizer, Mike Ege (http://outsideedgecoaching.com), and I had been talking about this trip for months, and Mike had recruited the other guys from all over North America. As the anticipation grew, I often wondered what would happen and how I would react. Even more, I wondered what God would do with those six days.
The backpacking trip, itself, was the experience of a lifetime for me. It wasn’t very much like what I had anticipated, but more. It was a lot more than just six days of hiking and camping in the woods. The day after we emerged from the trail back into civilization, I sat down to try and put on paper just what I had learned from the experience. What follows is almost word for word what I wrote that morning.
1) I am capable of more than I ever thought possible. If I had known the sheer physical challenge I was undertaking, I probably would have been too unsure of myself to try it. Yet, I made it. Even though I struggled and sometimes felt discouraged, I finished the course. Nothing can ever take that away. In doing so, I proved to myself that I do have what it takes to accomplish difficult and unfamiliar tasks.
2) I can trust God. So many times on the trail I was completely exhausted and didn’t think I could take another step. I prayed almost constantly for strength and I received just what I needed. There were many dangerous places I passed through unharmed. I believe it was because God was with me all the time. The most difficult thing for me, though, was trusting Him to take care of my wife and kids. I struggled with this almost constantly. I knew in my head that He protects them all the time, but I had to let go and believe that we were all in His hands.
3) I can live with a lot less “stuff”. Carrying everything you have in a pack for a week really clarifies what is necessary and what’s not. It’s an extreme example, but it still applies to real life on some level. I have way too much stuff and I really need to do something about it.
4) After God, my family is the most important thing on earth. I knew I would miss them, but I was not prepared for the utter loneliness and sadness I felt being so totally separated from them. If there is anything about this trip I couldn’t do again, it’s probably that.
5) Real fellowship happens spontaneously. The very best times of connecting and sharing life on this trip always came about at unexpected times and places. I was able to personally connect with almost every one of the other guys without ever having too “make” it happen. It just did.
6) Friendships can form quickly under extreme conditions. It’s no wonder soldiers will kill and die for each other. I understand that much better now. I have eight new brothers. The 9th guy, Mike? He was already my brother before the trip. Getting to hang out with him for 7 days was icing on the cake.
7) Live in the moment. I was forced to do that on the trail, not looking forward or back, but taking every step one at a time. That is the way life happens. Living in the future or the past is not living. Savoring and experiencing every moment is the only way to really live.
Well, that’s it. I don’t know if any of this will speak to anyone else or not, but I suspect it will. That’s not the whole story, of course. I didn’t even mention the breathtaking beauty of the wilderness, the quiet, or the way the water in a mountain stream tastes. Maybe another time…