Recently I was hiking in one of the parks I visit. I’ve gone hiking in this park often enough that I have a good understanding of where the trails, roads and creeks are in relation to each other.
I was overweight and out of shape. Hadn’t been camping in over a year. I left on the hike mid-morning, and after a couple hours in the heat and humidity I was ready to be done. Trouble was that I was still pretty far away from my camp.
I was walking fast, on a gravel access road. I was certain I knew where I was, so I thought I’d take a shortcut off the access road to intersect a nearby trail, one that took a more direct route back to my camp.
I stepped off into thick woods and began following a deer trail. If you’ve ever been on a deer trail, you know that they start and stop pretty abruptly. Usually when one ends another will start up a short distance away.
For about twenty minutes I walked farther into the woods. At times I had to stop and navigate around a felled tree or a briar patch.
Then, slowly, I started wondering why I hadn’t yet come to the trail I expected to intersect. If I was right about where I was and the direction I had been heading, I should have already come to the trail. Every time I saw a little break in the trees ahead I’d think, “Oh, okay, there’s the trail.” But it never was there.
So eventually I stopped. I looked around and realized that I must have been wrong about something, where I was, where the trail was, something. And I started back the way I had come. When I hadn’t gotten back to the access road in twenty minutes I stopped again. Looked around. Realized that I was good and lost, and I may have been following the deer trails in circles, for all I knew, and I was now in a part of the woods I was unfamiliar with.
I didn’t panic, though I felt anxious, and felt that jolt of adrenalin you get when something like this happens. I thought about my situation. I had left on this hike with only some water and a protein bar, both of which were almost gone. I had no compass, no whistle, no navigation device. My compass would have been a big help, and it was stupid not to have put it in my fanny pack. The sun was high overhead, giving me no indication of east or west.
I did have my cell phone. After thinking about it for a minute I decided that, embarrassing as it was, I would need help finding my way out. I figured I could call the ranger station and ask someone to drive along the access road, I would hear the truck and be able to follow the sound out of the woods. But when I tried my phone I couldn’t get a signal. No bars for Marg. No calling allowed.
It’s not like I was in some 400,000 acre wilderness area where being lost might mean I could die. I understood that walking any direction would eventually lead me to a trail or a road, in other words, out. But I was exhausted and just couldn’t imagine having to walk another several hours.
Didn’t matter though. Nothing could change fact that the only thing to do was to keep walking. But which way?
So I tried something.
I let myself become still. I tried to clear my mind of all the anxious chatter my rational brain was spewing. I just stood there for a minute. And gradually I became aware of a feeling, just a kind of knowing, that the road was in a certain direction. So I found a marker, a tall tree, about 100 feet off in that direction and walked to it. Then I found the next marker, and walked to that. and then the next. I walked over felled trees and right through the thorns of the damned Wild Rose that is taking over our Indiana forests. And I just kept doing this. Walking to the next marker as calmly as possible. And don’t you know, after a while there I was, standing on the access road again.
I found my way out by becoming still, trying to feel the direction I needed to travel, and then looking for and walking directly to the next marker in that direction.
I share this with you because, standing on that access road thinking about what had just transpired, I realized it was a clear and concise lesson put before me. It was a moment in which She said, “Here, I’m going to show you something.” I knew that She had just opened my eyes to how.
How to live in Her light. How to welcome Her understanding of forgiveness so that my brokenness can heal. How to access Her quiet love to find trust and safety. How to find Her in the daunting confusion of reaction and drama.
First, I need to be still so I can feel Her presence, that will allow me to become aware of where I feel Her in my life. Next, I’ll look more closely and see what action I can take to move myself closer.
That’s the next marker. It’s simply the next action that moves you closer to Her. It has to be attainable. Not too hard, not a stretch, not a challenge. Attainable. So you can calmly do it, over and through any obstacles that come up. As long as you know what the next marker is, and you are confident in your ability to reach it, you will move toward more fully allowing Her presence in your life.