Hebrews 11:13 “…and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims here on the earth.”
Cathy and I had a conversation a few days ago about what draws us to being outside, on the trail, closer to nature. We mainly agreed, and had similar reasons with some slightly different takes. Here are some of my thoughts, as nearly as I can capture them.
I have always liked being outdoors and in the woods and wild places since I was very young. As a child I used to disappear after breakfast and stay gone until the last rays of the sun were disappearing, and sometimes after that. Either alone or with my friends I spent a lot of time running around in the woods, tromping up and down creeks, exploring new areas, etc.
I’ve always been a strong walker, but never a strong runner. When I was a Marine, in the best shape of my life, I loved putting on a heavy pack and “humping” for miles at a time, but I detested getting out in sneakers, shorts and a t-shirt for a short 3-4 mile run. The heavier the pack and the steeper the hill the better. I have a steady ground eating walking gait but a bone jarring stomping running gait. Running was never my thing but walking always was.
After I left the Marines, I made little effort to stay in shape. Cathy and I enjoyed getting out for a short hike now and again, but we never really went out of our way to pursue hiking. If we saw that a trail was more than a few miles long we didn’t attempt it, because we knew we weren’t in good enough shape to hike that far (without some major discomfort anyway). But, out of all the activities we tried, we seemed to find the most shared enjoyment in those times we spent together in the outdoors, whether at the beach or touring around to different parks and various nature oriented destinations.
As discussed in my latest post about beginning our journey from the couch to the trail, we began hiking in earnest late in 2015 and have really focused on that activity more than any of the other activities. We found a renewed love for being outdoors, walking through God’s wonderful creation, and enjoying the beauty we never realized was out there waiting to be discovered. Lately I have been asking myself “WHY” do I enjoy it so much.
Some questions are easy. Who, what, when and where, all of these questions have nice, neat tidy answers. The “WHY” questions though, they can get messy. So bear with me.
WHY. I like hiking so much because it reveals more of God’s creation to me. The beauty and detail with which God has crafted even the smallest flower, leaf or even insect. It’s all fascinating. On each trip we have taken there is so much to take in, and so much that I miss! In looking at one detail I miss so many others. There have been many times I have been busy looking at the trail itself as I walked and Cathy would say “look over there”, and there is a beautiful flower or stunning view. The whole of creation is truly awesome, even in the fallen world we live in.
And, it goes deeper. And the deeper it goes, the fuzzier it gets and the harder to explain it becomes, but I’ll try. As eternal creatures, and God’s children, we understand that although we inhabit this world for a time, ultimately this is not our home. We are strangers and pilgrims. We find imperfect happiness here for a season, but we look for and long for something better. As I’m out in nature, walking, wandering, this is what I find myself doing- looking for and longing for something better. Maybe it’s around the next bend, at the summit of the next hill, across that river. And sometimes I find it, but I don’t find IT- that thing that is best. So I walk on and keep searching. I understand that I won’t find it here in this world, but my vision gets a little clearer. Paul tells us that we see “through a glass darkly” and I totally get that, but sometimes. some rare times. the darkness lightens and I get a glimpse.
I don’t know if anyone will understand what I tried to explain, but that’s the best I can do. Like I said, fuzzy. But there it is. That’s the “WHY” as nearly as I can come to it. Thanks for suffering through the attempt!