HIGH ROPES ARE A THRILL, BUT WILDERNESS EXPERIENCES REFILL THE SOUL

This week I’m catching up from a recent speaking engagement in Ecuador. My friend Edy Sutherland hits it out of the park with this reflection comparing the thrill of a high ropes course as compared to the rejuvenating aspects of an authentic wilderness experience.

From the moment I arrived at camp I felt the mountain calling.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.- John 10:27

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? – Psalm 42:2

JUMP OFF A POLE OR ASCEND A REMOTE AND WILD DESERT BUTTE? WHICH SOUNDS MORE REFRESHING?

Our short retreat included ascending and jumping off a pole but did not include time for hiking the butte standing tall above the landscape. From a distance, I knew I was only minutes away from scenes of painted cliffs and serene wildlife. The ropes course was thrilling, but I knew that my soul needed to be refilled. The wilderness was wooing me. I rubbed my chin, scrutinizing the cliff walls looming high above the landscape. Familiarity to this type of geology led me to believe I could navigate a safe route to the summit.

authentic wilderness experience

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” – Psalm 42:1

The east side sloped somewhat compared to the steep walls on the surrounding sides. The exact distance from camp or whether I would encounter a trail system was unclear to me. Expertise as an outdoor adventure junkie led me to believe the uncertain logistics of my quest would unfold as I pressed toward my goal.

Since becoming a disciple of Jesus, my escapades now include seeking God’s peace, provision, protection and perspective along the way. I’m not just into the adventure. I’m into adventures with Jesus. With that attitude, outdoor adventures becomes another opportunity to experience God.

RELATED POST: Let My People Go Camping! God Wants Us All to Himself | Exodus 5:1-3

The next morning I quietly slipped out of my warm bag to avoid being detected by the others in the base camp. I picked up the day pack I thoughtfully packed the night before with the gear I would need for the morning’s adventure. My meager plan included travelling as close to the butte as possible via paved road then bushwhack through the vegetation to the slopped side of the rock outcropping.

ADVENTURE IS GREAT. BUT ADVENTURE WITH JESUS IS BALM TO THE SOUL

Stepping out in faith toward a new summit is thrilling. But, I’ve come to learn the real thrill comes in experiencing God along the way. Today would prove to be no less exciting. I trudged down the city road struggling to lasso my contemplations on worship rather than the ordinary facets of life. Recognizing my weakness, I started to sing the chorus to The Heavenly Vision by Helen Howarth Lemmel written in 1922 but popularized by Michael W. Smith and Alan Jackson. It’s a song I share with my two daughters when they are distant from worship, crying over this or that nothingness.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.

As my mind honed in on Jesus and what He did for me, I felt a stirring to pay closer attention to my surroundings. I saw a break in the tall shrubberies lining the roadway. I peered in. There looked to be a pathway along a small creek. I entered through the narrow opening. I soon detected a trailhead sign next to the accustomed wooden box that ordinarily contained a logbook for hikers to register. I opened the box to find not only the logbook but to my delight a map of the Prescott, Arizona trail system.

I used the map to make a new plan, one that included navigating on trails through God’s created wilderness following a trickling brook instead of trudging over the artificial asphalt.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

I DIDN’T THINK ANYONE KNEW OF THAT TRAIL ANYMORE

After about an hour on the trail I came upon a fellow hiker sitting on a bench next to a historical marker who asked me, “Did you come up from the east side?” I answered, “Yes.” He responded by stating, “I didn’t think anyone knew of that trail anymore.”

After that brief encounter, I turned back and within 50 yards I noticed a path leading in the right direction. I took it recognizing I might be following a deer trail. And to my delight I met a small herd of 10 does and their fawns eating in a clearing.

The trail became lost at the clearing. I spent some time enjoying the company of the animals as they ate. In a charming yet unusual encounter they welcomed me as one of their own. Upon their retreat, I decided to go in the same direction. As I continued I could hardly contain my worship  in this wilderness Cathedral. I was more eager than ever before to make my way to the summit where I could shout the glory of His name. These encounters with God remind me of how true His Word is:

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. – Psalm 42:1

RELATED POST: How Wilderness Experiences Make Boring Doctrines Relevant Again?

PERSONAL APPLICATION

  • Consider how you could use retreat in the wilderness to become training ground for seeking and searching for God in the busyness of everyday life.
  • Reflect on ways God has proven to be faithful to direct your steps in the midst of your insufficient plan.

OUTDOOR LEADERSHIP APPLICATION

  • Review Proverbs 16:9. Ask the group to consider ways God directs our steps even though we may have a well laid out plan. Have them sight examples from the trip and or from past experiences in their everyday life.
  • Use your time of reflection to share your testimony of God’s faithfulness both on the trail and at home with the group.

Guest Blogger | Edy Sutherland

Edy is an outdoor adventure sport junkie, uses her experiences in the wilderness as the back story to write object lessons. She desires to build up the body of Christ to maturity to know God so intimately their souls joyfully sing “Wheee!” Edy’s blogs are where she develops the new lessons God is presenting to her. Visit her author site at www.edysutherland.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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