7:52 am, June 10, 2009
Yesterday a one-hour hike turned into three.
It began on paved road that turned to dirt road that turned to forest path that turned to forest. I took my time, enjoying both nature and being an amateur photographer. I took over 100 pictures, and feel confident about 2-3 of them, and then another dozen are okay. As I walked I was always swirling, looking for a way to frame a shot.
When the path diverged, I went with my impulse and what looked most inviting. I stumbled upon wide-open fields, a brick cabin and lakes. Then I came to a lake that was bound on one end by a dam, the top of which was about 14â€ wide. So of course I had to cross. Swatting bugs all the way, I made it across with little trouble, and with renewed energy set off into the forest again. Before I knew it, the trail had tapered away and I was without a path. I thought it might pick up again and pressed forward. And around. And up. And over.
Like most men, I wasnâ€™t lost; I had just changed my destination. And I decided the new course wasâ€¦up. Surely the higher I got the more clearly I would see the lay of the land and maybe even spot the Abbey. The more I climbed the more I realized how unprepared I was for this type of a hike. Street shoes, lugging a book and journal, and pockets full of nonsense. At least I had brought a bottle of water with me, and drank it a third at a time. After ascending about 200 feet, I neared the top. Then I saw it. Wood with a carved 90 degree angle. Something man-made! As I stepped into the landing, an old, rugged cross pointed the way to a clear path. I pulled out my map, and determined that I was at â€œCross Knob.â€
I had the map all along, but did not pull it out until I was in the web of trails. I didnâ€™t have a compass, and could never get my bearings until Cross Knob. I then used that marker to guide the way home.
The whole thing got me thinking about the obvious analogies. As we traverse this life, the Holy Spirit and the Bible are our map and compass. If we have one but not the other we can easily get lost. But even then, we often have it reversed, and view the Bible as our map and the Holy Spirit as our compass. This causes us to default to legalism, and instead of seeking the Spirit, we seek spiritual confirmation of the direction with which we are convicted. To make matters worse, many Christian circles and churches have lost the art of listening to the Holy Spirit. We find ourselves truly lost with the conviction that we are most right.
I am personally guilty of a similar sin. I have used my self-identity to map the life I am to live. By this I am referring to my talents, gifts and personality traits. I say that this is the way that God has made me, then live how I want. I use my knowledge of Scripture as my compass, validating the path I want to take by arguing that it is not sin, and perhaps even consistent with Godâ€™s desires.
But what would it look like for me to die to myself? What if I started with God, and ended with self? I hope to make this transition. I want to learn to seek the Spirit to discover what the map of my life looks like, and to test it by the True North of Scriptures. Perhaps I will find myself more outside my comfort zone, and more alive than ever.
As I write this and reflect, I can see how I have taken baby steps in the last year in this direction, and hope in the next year to plunge forward into this forest.
The end of my hike reveals the back up plan, which is also the original plan. When I am lost, look up, travel up, and fix my eyes on the cross. The way of sacrifice is the way home. The best path is the way of Jesus.