I recently found one of my old 3x5cards with this question written on it: “Why does the desert have such a hold on me?”
One reason is because the desert is so stark and minimal, stripped of all excess. There is no pretention in the desert. What you see is what you get, and you can see a lot since none of it is hiding behind trees. And in the desert you can always see the horizon. You don’t have to worry about falling off the edge as long as you can see the horizon.
I enjoy the Guadalupe Mountains even though you have to carry all your water, making hiking and backpacking there very difficult. I love to sit up on Bush Mountain or Hunter Peak and look out across the desert expanse and imagine ancient oceans and infinite possibilities.
I’m not exclusive about the desert. I also love being around water and trees. I had a great time hiking in Tahoe and in the Rocky Mountains National Park and in the Pecos Wilderness. Maybe the real reason I like desert mountains is because those are the type of mountains closest to my home.
And I keep going back to the mountains because I need to feel dirt under my feet; because I need to live, even if only for two nights, off of whatever I can carry on my back; and because God speaks to me most often when I am moving. Dirt trails are a big part of my spiritual journey, and being on top of mountains helps keep my eyes open to the larger, wider, wilder world around me.
I think about spiritual journey a lot; most of my theology and philosophy is based on the notion of being on a journey. We’re always moving into the future – sometimes the trail goes uphill and sometimes it goes downhill. Sometimes it goes on smooth paved pathways, and sometimes on rocky unstable trails.
I was reading I Corinthians 2:13-16 (Phillips), “… you must be spiritual to see spiritual things. The spiritual man, on the other hand, has an insight into the meaning of everything …” I was intrigued that it is says the spiritual man has insights into everything. Does that mean becoming more spiritual gives us more insight into physics, into geography or art, or into marathon running and mountain climbing? Is that what it says?
I believe so. Spiritual insight changes our perspective and opens our eyes to the bigger picture of time and life. Once we know and accept that there are deep wisdoms that can’t be quantified, that there is a reality that exists apart from what we can see and hear and touch, it changes our perception of everything else. Once we know there is more than meets the eye, our insight into everything changes.
So we can go backpacking knowing because we are living in a bigger unseen spiritual world we may be changed in ways we can’t imagine or anticipate. We can read books on a wide range of topics and know God can and will speak to us through any of them because God is bigger than our choices.
Well, the reason I rediscovered the old 3x5 card (with the question on it) was because I was digging through my backpacking file looking for my gear list. I have a two-nighter at Pine Top coming up with my good friend, David Nobles (and maybe others if we can talk anyone else into joining us), and it is time to start gathering up my stuff for the journey.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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