One of my favorite achievements of my youth was earning my Eagle Scout badge. I loved almost every minute of scouts, from my first Pinewood Derby as a Tiger Cub, to my Eagle Scout ceremony in high school. In addition, my grandparents started the troop in my town and my uncle and dad were leaders, so it was a family adventure. When I look back at it, scouts gave me a passion for the outdoors, which is a big part of why I moved to Colorado after college.
I was able to re-ignite that passion when I had the honor of chaperoning Moffat County High School’s PE3 trip to the Grand Canyon at the beginning of this month.
To be honest, I initially thought it would be a great trip to get into shape and have a little fun with some high school seniors, which it was. But the best part was that it turned into a life lesson, and that’s what I hope to share in this column.
The morning of the hike was invigorating; my pack weight was well distributed, the warmth of the sun was just starting to hit the canyon walls and it was a great day for hiking. Oh, and by the way, I was ready to out-hike a bunch of teenagers!
In Boy Scouts, I took pride in one thing on hiking trips — beating everybody to camp. Every morning I would put my head down and eat trail as fast as I could. But in Arizona, I quickly realized that my purpose was not to show some energetic youth that this old man still could hike fast.
When we started out there were a couple of hikers who were having a hard time with their packs. I hung back and helped them get their packs organized and their weight settled. Soon enough, I was in the back of the pack, and for once, I was fine with it.
While hiking in the back, I was reminded of my dad. He usually was one of the last ones to finish our hikes and, to be honest, I never understood why. I remember asking him one time why he was in the back and his response was something to the effect of, “I like to look up and enjoy the surroundings.”
Eureka! My dad was right. I found that by taking my time I actually reflected on the beauty of the journey. I was looking up and I was last, and it was magnificent.
It reminded me of an account I had just read about Jesus’ ministry in Luke 10:38-42. The account is about Jesus’ visit to the house of his friends, Mary and Martha. The two women had two completely different responses to the visit. Martha was rushing around trying to tidy up while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened. Martha was frustrated by Mary and even said to Jesus: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Jesus responded: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
That day, Mary chose to look up while hiking. She sat at Jesus’ feet, and as Jesus said, she chose what was better. Nothing is wrong with hospitality and tidying up, but like Jesus pointed out, Martha’s heart wasn’t there — she was worried and upset about many things.
Too often I hike through life with my head down, worrying and getting upset about many things. Usually that happens when I’m solely focused on a destination, only after I reach it, I set off toward another goal that brings a similar unfulfilling journey.
My experience hiking in the Grand Canyon and my time reading Luke reminded me that Jesus’ desire is for us to sit at his feet and spend less time chasing destinations (especially when they only exasperate us). Jesus says that Mary was after the one thing that is needed — Him. I pray that I can learn to better seek Him, take time to sit at His feet and avoid the temptation of hiking through life with my head down, working alone on my own messes.