I’ve always thought that when I guide a group of people on a wilderness expedition, that the starting point is to realize that God has a lot for me on this trip. He might be calling you to facilitate an adventure for other people to connect with Jesus, but he is also calling you to special times of connection with him. This summer a guide I know, named Amber, experienced just that for herself. Thank you for sharing your story Amber!
AMBER’S FEELINGS OF GUILT, AN UNBEARABLE WEIGHT IN THE WILDERNESS
As I sit examining the rock in my hands, it shocks me to realize how accurately it represents my guilt. At first, it looked like an average-sized rock, but when I picked it up over half of it was hidden underground. It is so big I can barely hold it above my knees, yet I feel this attachment to the rock, so strong that I don’t want to set it down.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 12:1-2
I was on a backpacking trip, a training week for all of the backcountry guides at my church before we embarked on a summer leading students to meet with God in the wilderness. I came on the trip expecting to learn about hard skills, like maps and compasses, knots, and how to prepare the food. But on this unusually sunny morning, as our guide trainers read about Jesus’ death on the cross, God broke me deep inside as he showed me I was carrying my guilt everywhere I went. Now, as I sit holding this rock that so perfectly embodies my burden, the battle rages inside me.
“What am I supposed to to with this guilt?” I ask myself.
“Give it to me,” God answers.
“But how?” I ask.
“Just give it to me,” he repeats.
“But it can’t be that easy,” I counter.
“But it is. Just give it to me.”
“What am I supposed to cling to without this guilt?”
“Me. Cling to me.” His voice is gentle and caring, with a hint of a loving chuckle.
WHAT BETTER PLACE THAN THE WILDERNESS TO THROW OFF EVERYTHING THAT HINDERS AND THE SIN THAT SO ENTANGLES
As I stand to throw my rock, the guilt I’ve been clinging to with all my strength, I hesitate. It gets heavier in my hands and I wonder if I can really let go. So I close my eyes, take a deep breath and throw my guilt, and the rock, as far as I can. The rock lands about 10 feet away and bounces, but at least it’s out of my grasp now. The relief wasn’t immediate. Everything was different, but I couldn’t explain how right away. I felt this new sense of freedom that I wasn’t sure what to do with at first.
Coming back from the trip, my life in the front country was different. Giving up my guilt freed me in a way I never imagined. When I was cautious, timid and afraid before, I was suddenly light, excited and adventurous. Stepping out of my comfort zone wasn’t a bad thing anymore. I realized how my guilt had been affecting every aspect of my life, holding me back from growth, joy, and experiencing the satisfaction of God’s love in my life. But most of all, I learned the peace and relief that comes with giving my burdens to God. The Bible tells us to rest in God, and it amazes me how easy he makes that possible. I can’t wait to find perfect and eternal rest with God in Heaven, but until then I will live in the freedom that comes from clinging to Jesus and giving him my burdens.
- Are you carrying any guilt that Jesus is asking you to lay down at the cross?
- Is there something symbolic that you can do like Amber did to provide a physical metaphor for an inward truth, like throwing the rock away to symbolize being free from the weight of guilt.
- Other resources for women in outdoor leadership: Experiential Learning, Spiritual Formation & Women’s Issues Bibliography