the journey’s end

March 23, 2006

It was no walk in the park. It was not even a “challenging” trip. It was a grit-your-teeth-and-survive sort of excursion. More so than any other outdoor trip in my memory, this one was so much more difficult than any of us expected. Part of this was due to the cold front that blasted us with biting winds sideways blasts of sleet. Part of it was due to the downpours that left numb fingers to fumble with cookware and tent-stakes when all we saw to look forward to after a day of sodden-shoed trudging was a wet sleeping back and another day of the same. And part of it was due to the patience-trying nature of differing levels of fitness and fortitude and impeding injuries.
But it was not all bad. We had moments when the sun burst its way through, making us squint through rain-darkened lashes. And not every night was a cold one: one evening I crawled into a sleeping bag that shocked me with its welcoming warmth. That was a long night of deep slumber and rambling, fit-less dreams.
The best part of it all, however, was getting to watch the troops rally: I felt proud and parental when I saw how these teenagers—none of whom had even been on this long of a backpacking trip—stepped beyond their own levels of comfort and fatigue in order to cheer each other on. I was both humbled by my own weakness of body and spirit, and buoyed by their youthful optimism. And every once in a while, God even saw fit to grant me the precious gift of internal strength—when I knew that none of my own strength remained—that allowed me to encourage another traveler along the way.
Perhaps I chose to step out into the unknown of this voyage, at a time when my life was a swirling mass of unknowns, in order to reclaim my life—to choose my own terrifying “unknown.” And that it was. It was terrifying, in that [as with many of life’s experiences], had I known what I was stepping into I would probably have never accepted the challenge. But I did it. We did it. We did it. The future, in all its unknowns, can hold nothing that our Maker cannot more than adequately equip us for. And experiences such as this one, though extremely short in the grand scheme of it all, are intensely significant in their life-changing capacity. We all need such times, I suspect, to shake us out of our complacency and ease, and to remind us that strength comes when we need it, not a moment earlier and never too late.

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