“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink (and hike!) and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.”~ Ecclesiastes 8:15
As summer comes to a close and the days grow shorter and shorter, my thoughts turn to reflections of the many days I have spent trekking through the mountains seeking to go further afield with each excursion, find new paths, and trod the trail less traveled. As someone who is accustomed to the flat prairies of Eastern Montana and relatively new to mountain living, I am surprised that I have found in hiking and climbing, a pursuit that has eclipsed any other past time passion in my life. There are the obvious reasons of course that I would find these weekend escapes to the mountains so appealing. Who wouldn’t want to gaze upon snow-capped peaks bordered by meadows of wild flowers in early summer, take pause by the placid waters of ice-cold lakes, or breathe in the misty air from the roaring power of melted snow cascading over towering waterfalls? As the summer air warmed and daylight lingered long into the night, our journeys could take us miles away from the bustle and noise of civilization before a day had to be called.
The weather was not always on the side of my weekend forays this summer, but even with the late thaw and early arrival of snow, I collected a tome of trail tales numbering in the upper teens. My camera lens captured the commonalities of my treks – the exquisite beauty of Glacier National Park, the wonder and power of our wild animal friends, and the vastness of our landscape under the Big Sky. Yet, what calls me to explore is something less tangible than what I depict in the images I gather.
Do you ever say to yourself, “there has to be more;” more fulfillment; more achievement; more clarity to your reason for being? We go about our days seeking purpose and meaning in the trials and triumphs we encounter. Indeed, we all eat, sleep, and have responsibilities that shape our daily lives be they personal needs, family obligations, school, or work, but do you ever feel off course and adrift in the direction you take? The self-determination industry is filled with guides for helping us find our way. We pay people to be our life-coaches, trail guides, experts who help us reach destinations in life that elude our own way-finding skills. Do you ever ask yourself, “Am I good enough? Am I strong enough? Smart enough? Pretty enough? Gutsy enough? What if I fail? What if I succeed?” We limit the scope of our journeys by these invisible boundary lines of doubt set with in our minds.
I find that in the wilds, the only boundary lines I face are the physical ones. I can conquer the physical boundaries I encounter on my weekend escapades to the mountains far more adeptly than the invisible ones that dwell within me. I remember the first time I visited Glacier a little over 2 years ago. I clung to the walls of the Highline Trail, afraid to look down and fearful that my less than graceful tendency to trip would send me plummeting to my certain death. With each of the some 40 hikes and climbs I have accomplished since that first visit I have grown more sure-footed, I now run to the edge of precipices to get a better view, and I am always reaching higher in the destinations I set forth to claim. The walls of fear I once clung to have crumbled.
With each physical boundary that I once flinched at crossing conquered, the invisible boundaries that confine my life seem to dissipate in their strength. There is a wonderful sense of release and strength that comes from taking on seemingly impassable routes. Making my way to the mountaintop following faint goat tracks along a ridge or finding a soft grass filled meadow after slashing my way through the brush brings the surest rush of relief and accomplishment I have ever felt. My daily toils seem small in comparison to the feat just accomplished.
What calls me to the mountains is the gift of wild freedom created by God and the unlimited opportunity for self-determination and realization when I cross those boundary lines of fear time and again. With each trail tail I record in my memory and my journal, a new sense of direction for living is revealed.
Sometimes we have to look hard to find God’s direction and purpose for our lives and then we have days such as I had on the last full day of Summer 2014. The Light of the World shined ever so brightly in the wild landscape of Many Glacier. While the trails were clearly marked, our adventure was a sure one with two grizzly encounters and a race against the last light of the day to the trailhead. Never have my senses been so awakened to the glory around me. From the vibrant hues of endless blue skies and leaves of gold, red, and orange reflecting in the glassy blue waters of Fishercap and Bullhead Lakes to the ghostly trees along the trail to the top of Swift Current Mountain, the Master’s hand had created a spectacular scene on His rugged canvas.
Under the brilliant sun, my spirits were lifted as high as the trail could take me and as the day came to close, the Lord refused to extinguish His Light, leading me down a path so vividly golden in the waning evening light that I had no doubt of His presence in, His promise of, or His direction for my life.
I encourage you to cross your own boundary lines of doubt and fear and in your accomplishment find new strength and direction for the journey at hand.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2