As summer ends and we head into fall, this will be the final installment of my blog series Finding God on the Trail. If you missed the first two, please find them here ^^^^^^^^^^
I saved this part of the story for last. If you read the first two blogs, you may be wondering why it was that I was so incredibly exhausted and at times distraught on a 4.2 mile, intermediate trail. Well the truth is, my actual hike ended up being just short of 7 miles that included a 1000 foot change in elevation. Yes, I climbed 1000 feet. How did that happen? Well, I took a wrong turn on the trail! YUP! Hiking alone and taking a wrong turn on a trail are what horror stories are made of. I have been scolded by those who love me (and a few have laughed at me) for the ridiculousness of my mistake.
And yet somehow, God was in that. But first let me explain.
You may recall that I said, I had travelled this trail previously. One of the many things I love about this particular trail besides it’s stunning views is that it is very well maintained and very well marked. There is also cell service and satellite which allows me to follow the trail on my phone App. My first time on the trail was during Covid and we saw several temporary signs clearly marking “one-way” as well as Covid spacing requirements. This trail is clear and easy to follow. The chances of getting lost are virtually zero, notice I said “virtually”.
As I was hiking along I came to a split in the trail. I vaguely remembered this spot and recalled that one way was the trail I wanted and the other one led to a distant high peak and was considered “difficult”. I was pretty sure that I knew which trail was which. However, the trail I assumed was mine had a very clearly written sign that read “stop” “wrong way”. Then it had some words about a staging area etc. The other trail which I was sure was NOT my trail had a clearly written sign that read “one way” with a large arrow pointing toward that trail.
I paused for a moment, quite certain that I was supposed to go the “stop” direction. But I vacillated. I second-guessed myself, assuming that those in charge of the trail certainly knew more than I did. And instead of double checking my navigation App, I simply headed off toward the “one way” trail. I climbed on as the trail became increasingly steeper and more difficult. My legs were burning, I was sweating profusely and something didn’t seem right. After about 15-20 minutes, I decided to stop and check my navigation. To my surprise, it showed that I was definitely off my trail, and by quite a bit. Now lest you imagine that I promptly turned around, by this time the sun had likely begun to fry my brain, and I justified to myself, “maybe it’s just jumping off the closest tower” and instead of turning around because I thought the other trail was clearly marked “stop - wrong way-, I had to be on the right trail. I continued on the grueling trail for another 15 minutes or so until I reached a high peak that looked straight out southward. SOUTHWARD!!! OH NO!! That is definitely NOT the right direction. Looking down again at my trustee App, it reaffirmed the truth that I was terribly off track and that in fact the only way to get back was to turn around and go back the way I came.
As I headed back down, both laughing at myself and then double checking the time, my supplies, my battery etc. I realized that I had gone nearly an entire hour and 2.7 miles out of my way. As I contemplated my error, there was a sense of embarrassment that gave way to shame. Had I been arrogant? Overconfident? Reckless?
After grappling for a bit, I remembered that God does not shame us. It is not in His character to punish or embarrass us. I turned to my Heavenly Father and asked Him to speak to my heart. He came quickly to my rescue. “Heather, you didn’t go the wrong way because of your pride, you went the wrong way because you didn’t trust your own instincts. I put my Holy Spirit in you to lead you into truth. When you thought something was wrong, you should have trusted that. But I also gave you navigation. I am your Heavenly navigation. Just as your App uses a satellite to pinpoint your location on the trail, in the same way I know everything and can see the entire path. Just as easy as it is for you to check your phone, you can ask ME and I will show you the right way. You can trust me as your navigator. I am never wrong!”
Be encouraged today. When you are on the trail, God has given you His Holy Spirit to lead you. Pay attention to the promptings and leadings of the Spirit. And when you are uncertain, take the time to stop, pray, ask the Lord for His guidance and trust His ability to pinpoint the path you should take!