The Permian Reef Trail in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of the easier trials that we take, yet still it’s rated “strenuous.” It climbs about 2,200’ to an elevation of 7,000’, an 8-1/2-mile round trip. This year our group consisted of ten guys from Midland, mostly members of the Iron Men group, and we spent about six hours on the trail including an hour on top for lunch.
It was a beautiful day, maybe the best weather we’ve ever had in a dozen Iron Men hiking trips. The sky was bright blue and cloudless and the air surprisingly free of haze. We were all amazed how far we could see from up on top of the ridge. Someone suggested we should cancel all future trips since we would never see weather this good again.
But in spite of perfect weather it was still hard work. We came down off the trail and collapsed into our seats on the bus, opened the windows to bleed off our locker-room stench, changed into comfortable shoes, gulped water and scarfed down Advil, and immediately started telling our stories from the day and congratulating each other. It all made me happy. Once again I was reminded how blessed I am to be surrounded by so many good men. The world is full of men who live their entire lives with no real friends who will hike to the top of the mountains with them, yet I have a bus full of guys like that.
The scene reminded me of a Bible story about a young man named Saul who lived a small life tending the family flocks until God called him out to be the first king of Israel. I Samuel 10:26 says, “Saul went to his house in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched.” Before he became the king Saul was all alone; afterward, he was surrounded by valiant men. He had guys. Coming off the mountain, I realized I was surrounded by valiant men whose hearts God had touched.
I remembered six-years-back how reluctant I was to be part of a men’s ministry because I never considered myself a man’s man. I was not an athlete, didn’t play golf, only followed sports sporadically, would rather be by myself reading or writing than hanging with the men spitting and whittling, didn’t hunt or even own a gun, rarely went fishing, had never been to drag races, and I was totally indifferent about NASCAR. Yet, here we are, all of us together, bragging about our day. I had been alone, but now God had given me guys, and today we were all men’s men.
And then, the very next morning, Sunday morning, I helped with the Lord’s Supper at my church, First Baptist in Midland. That means I had to wear grown-up clothes (a coat and tie), which means I had to dig them out from the back corner of my closet. Since I left city government three years ago I don’t have to dress up as often as I used to.
In addition to being on the roster for Lord’s Supper team I was playing trombone in the church orchestra, and since I was already sitting very near the front of the worship center (Sanctuary? Auditorium? Big Church?) I was assigned the duty to help serve the choir. It was a rich experience as always, but even more because I could turn back and watch all the other men serving up and down the aisles. I enjoyed watching their measured actions and the reverence they showed for the service. But even more, I was blessed to realize I knew all of them by name, I had served with most of them on committees, and they had all influenced me through the strength of their lives.
Once again, I was blessed to know so many fine men; men who have impacted who I am and how I live; men I want to be like when I grow up; valiant men whose hearts have been touched by God.
The name of our group, Iron Men, comes from Proverbs 27:17 that says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” But sharpening each other isn’t all we do. We also smooth each other. We’re like old wooden-handled tools that show the wear of constant use, the smoothed portions worn smooth by the hands that used them. Our constant man-to-man contact wearing away the rough spots has left us with the pattern of our fellow valiant men. The older I get the more I look forward to being worn smooth by these men. I have a blessed life.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s book, “Running With God:” www.runningwithgodonline.com … Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org