(Forgive me if this sounds like Amateur Hour Confessions – that’s pretty much exactly what we are.)
My friend and I completed a 35-mile backpacking trip near our home a couple weeks ago, and the one thing I couldn’t get out of my head was how present God was during the whole thing.
It’s not just about seeing his majesty in creation, either (though there was oodles of that – and no, we didn’t get any pictures, evil teases that we are).
When we’re down in the valley, life is a blur. The cushion of first-world existence surrounds us. Our social structures and bank accounts shield us from pain. Though we acknowledge these as gifts from God, his fortuitous presence in these blessings doesn’t exactly jump out at us. It’s harder to see the flashing neon “I DID THIS! – God” sign on those things. Crediting him must be done more intentionally, out of a knowledge of Scripture (James 1:17). Although, to be sure, James seems to think it a sin if we don’t.
But when you’re on the trail, you live hour by hour. And his hand is much more obvious.
This was our first time overnight camping a long distance from any trailhead. This is not a touristy or well-known trail; it’s high-altitude and arduous, one of the “local secrets” that only “real Montanans” know about. Water is the main factor. You’ll go through four liters like nothing, especially in summer, and you don’t want to simply stuff your pack full of water out of weight considerations (another major endurance concern). We got all the necessary tech – a water filtration pump, a Jetboil, freeze-dried Mountain House meals – but it didn’t change the one fact that really made us sit up and think: we were out of reach of services up there, and the trail was going to have to provide for us.
First off, he provided through advice. We knew from friends who’d already done the hike that there were long ridge-top stretches where there was no water. (Those stretches turned out to be twelve and seven miles long, respectively.) So we knew some thirst, but thank to friends’ guidance, we’d brought enough water to bust through the first stretch.
He also provided through my friend’s brother, who dumped a ton of unused camping gear on us that kept us from having to bankrupt our bank accounts to buy it all.
When exhaustion hit, we found trickling streams to refill.
When we fell short of the lake that was our night destination and were hiking in the dark trying to find it, we prayed and God provided a beautiful clearing for a Plan B campsite.
When my knee and his hip were killing us the next day and almost preventing us from walking, we prayed, and I swear they cleared up within the hour.
And when we they really started flaring up around midday, God provided an alternate trail to mercifully cut our journey short.
You can’t ignore, deflect, or misattribute this stuff. It’s God.
Did I mention we saw a moose a hundred yards off around dusk? What magnificent creatures.
Missionaries will tell you the same thing (minus the moose) when it comes to living hour by hour. It’s a journey from one uncertain landmark to another, with only just enough provisions to get you through, like the disciples who were commanded by Jesus to take only just what they needed. It’s risky. It makes you suck in your breath in awe and discomfort. But it’s worth it. This is life at high spiritual altitudes.
If you’re wondering why you don’t see God moving in your life, it might be because you’re still sitting on your couch. It’s not until we climb up into the risky, untamed realms of life beyond our comfort zone that we truly see God moving in every hour.
If you know someone who might be blessed by this post, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!