I’ve felt wobbly since returning home, probably because my calendar is open and free and I don’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t expect to be back before the end of August.
My biggest goal for all of 2017, the one I’d been planning for eighteen months, ended abruptly. I’d planned to through-hike the Colorado Trail this summer, but I pulled off the trail from altitude sickness after only six days.
One of my prayers before leaving was that God would lead me to make good decisions. My friend Paul reminded me that’s exactly what happened. He told me about his friend who is buried on Mt McKinley. “He was the one who taught me how to powder ski and some of the finer points of technical rock climbing. He succumbed to Pulmonary Edema due to lack of acclimatization. They were having such good weather they pushed their way up too fast. He knew better. We had even discussed this. The team had a mountain doctor with them but they persisted even though they knew better. He lies buried in the snow as a testimony to stubborn foolishness and lack of God's wisdom.” I’m glad that isn’t the closing line to my story.
I’m not whining about my lost trip, but I do want to understand God better, and for me that means pondering outcomes like this.
Why would God plant a dream in my heart of a forty-day pilgrimage in the mountains of Colorado, only to send me home after six days? Did I hear him incorrectly from the beginning? Did I carry it out wrong? Did God change his mind?
I think it’s unreasonable to assume just because we have a God-given dream it won’t change. God never lays out the entire journey before us; if he did, we’d probably be too afraid to start. We should expect the journey to change. We should expect the dream to be diverted. Even the Apostle Paul was blocked by God in Acts 16:6 and he was doing what God told him to do at the time.
My friend John reminded me of a Bible story. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, he knew how Abraham would respond. There was never a question in His mind. He foreknew exactly what Abraham would do. But after the ordeal was over, God says "Now I know..." Or better translated, "Now I have actually seen for real what you would do, I have experienced your heart in action." God wanted to experience the joy of seeing Abraham obey no matter what the consequences.
John wrote, “I think he put a dream in your heart that you thought was attainable, and God knew you would certainly "go for it" because that's the kind of man you are. But God wanted to experience your heart in action. He also knew beforehand that the altitude would get you and that you would be wise enough to decide to come down, but he wanted the joy of seeing you be the man that you are.”
Well, John, that’s certainly the man I hope to be.
I realized, if God had given me a six-day-hiking dream (instead of a complete through-hike) I never would’ve devoted enough energy or research to the project, and I wouldn’t have gone to the trouble to bring people along with me. I probably would’ve kept it to myself, treating it like an extended weekend, and missed the epic nature of what God had in mind. Erwin McManus wrote, “The bigger people dream, the bigger they tend to live” (Wide Awake).
When we go on a pilgrimage, we don’t get to pick the answers we hear. When we go on a “Who am I?” quest, or a “Who are You?” quest, we can’t reject God’s answers just because they aren’t what we had in mind. We can’t throw them out because they don’t correspond to our model. We can’t turn to God and say, “That’s a nice try, and you almost got it, but if you work on it a bit more I think you’ll come to the same conclusions I have.”
When we pray for God’s will, we must be willing to accept the will he shows us. We can’t wait for God’s will 2.0, or 5.0, until we finally get the version that makes us happy. If we’re going to pick and choose, as if God’s will is a buffet … well, it wasn’t really God we were after all along.
I went on a pilgrimage to hear from God. It didn’t last as long as I’d hoped; nevertheless, I expect to be digesting what he said to me for quite a while. I may need more trail time to figure it out.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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