SHARE THE TRAIL: SPIRITUAL METAPHORS FOR MATTHEW 7:3

A guest blog by EDY SUTHERLAND. She is author of The WHEE Factor, a small group or personal Bible study using outdoor adventure spiritual metaphors as a medium to unlock to the Word of God for use in your everyday life.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? – Matthew 7:3

Its autumn in the pine forests high above the Sonoran desert outside Phoenix, Arizona. Hunters busily scout to prepare for the opening of elk season. I felt the effects of their efforts on my mountain bike ride today. All-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) crack and break sandstone slabs creating new and unexpected drop offs. The motorized vehicles uncover and dislodge an array of rocks the size of baby heads. And, the available torque delivered to the large knobby tires very often trades any semblance of smooth path for a trail littered with loose debris.

DOING UNTO OTHERS…

Too often I blame off-road vehicle users for my new-found discomfort. In fact, I’m certain they’re not even aware their activity makes my ride more difficult. I know many times I fail to consider the impact my riding might towards hikers as well.

On the single track trails through the desert preserve within the city of Phoenix my presence as a mountain biker has huge ramifications. Weekends attract large numbers of hikers and an increase in equestrian traffic. My high-speed travel catches slow-moving hikers off guard. It’s not uncommon for me to round a corner only to startle a group on horseback.

As a mountain biker, I share the trail with hikers, horseback riders and yes, hunters some of which use ATV’s. Other hunters however still travel by foot and carry bow and arrow. My use of a mechanical device has been known to disrupt their solitude and scatter their prey.

The area I frequent in the Tonto National Forest is not regularly travelled by mountain bikers. You’re more likely to see a caravan of modified rock crawlers easing up the infamous Pyeatt Draw. Is this to mean mountain bikers aren’t welcome? How about the lone cowboy on horseback tending his cattle and repairing fence line? Are other trail users welcome only if they willingly succumb to the ordinary impressions the most frequented users imprint on the landscape?

SHARING THE TRAIL EXPOSES OUR ATTITUDES

Most backcountry enthusiasts follow the mantra, “leave no trace.” Like the attitudes we cop when we have to “share the trail” with someone who is doing something different from us, I was reminded on the trail this past weekend that our sin can also leave a measurable impression. Like so many spiritual metaphors, time in the outdoors is a Wikipedia of object lessons. We may think we are without sin or our rebellion only affects ourselves but more likely our behavior leaves a trail “littered with loose debris.”

RELATED POST: 6 Ways that Studying God (Theology) Outdoors Leads us to God Himself

Are we in a habit of living to “share the trail?” Do we refrain from deceiving one another (Leviticus 19:11, Ephesians 4:25)? The new testament of the Bible offers more than 50 references for how we are to interact with one another . The most notable call us to love one another, bear with one another, forgive one another, and serve one another.

Truth is I regularly take part hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and jeeping in the national forest. Maybe it helps me better relate to the possible impact one activity might have on another. We are called to live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16) not passing judgment or placing an obstacle in your brother’s way (Romans 14:13).

PERSONAL REFLECTION

  • When you meet a fellow “trail user” do you encourage and build up one another with humility, gentleness and love (Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24-25, Ephesians 4:2)?
  • When necessary, do you admonish one another in humility and love rather than grumbling and complaining (Colossians 3:16, James 5:9, 1 Peter 4:9)?
  • Are you in the habit of doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit? In humility, do you consider others better than yourself (Philippians 2:3-5, Galatians 5:26)?

OUTDOOR LEADERSHIP APPLICATION

  • Ponder how you might use this metaphor on your next encounter on the trail to demonstrate how to “share the trail.”

Learn more about Edy Sutherland at www.edysutherland.com

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