Immediately following church on Sunday, I hopped in the car and drove south. Taking highways 215 and 178 to South Carolina for a Father’s Day meal is a mixed bag I suppose. On the one hand, it takes a lot longer to wind through the mountains than it does to zip down the interstates. But, on the other hand, you get to drive by Lake Logan and Sunburst and Devil’s Courthouse and Balsam Grove and Rocky Bottom and Hagood Mill! On the interstates you get there quickly. On the mountain roads, you patiently watch nature pass you by while you negotiate those hairpin turns. And, if you’re as lucky as I was last night, you might just see a beautiful black bear!
Anyway, after my Father’s Day Late Lunch, we all gathered outside under the oak tree to visit. Two of my cousins who live in Raleigh were with us – they are in middle/high school respectively and I always enjoy spending time with them. I told them that I was going to be hiking the Wilderness Trail with the youth from our church this week. After explaining a few details about what that meant (i.e. backpacking on the Appalachian Trail for four nights and five days), the older one asked, “What’s the hardest part about it?” I said, “For me, the hardest thing is being totally cut-off from the outside world. It is easy to miss your family and worry about all the things you’re not doing at work and home that you think you should be doing.” Both of my cousins made a face that said pretty loudly, “Why would anyone want to do that!?” The younger one then asked, “Well, what’s the best part?” You can imagine his shock when I said, “The best part is being totally cut-off from the outside world and having to rely entirely on the people you are with.” He was quick to respond, “How can the worst part and the best part be the same?” I smiled and said, “That’s the way things go sometime.”
Where is the border between blessings and curses? When does the interminable and winding road through the mountains become the patient path to peacefulness on a lazy Sunday evening. When does my disconnection from the outside world become my conduit to a deeper connection with myself and others?
So, this week, they are calling for rain in Southern Virginia where I will be hiking for five days. Not only will I be cut-off from family and work responsibilities, I will likely be very wet! I will be worried and wet. As you are reading this letter, there are 80 some people from the church walking around in the woods soaking wet at this very moment! There is a blessing there, but it is not obvious. The truest blessings rarely are.
Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny. C.S. Lewis
May it be so for us soaking wet hikers.
May it be so for you.
May it be so for the church we all long to come home to.