When the trail gets rocky… and steep

It started out as a nice cool morning walking through trees, hiking past the river. It was invigorating and scenic. My son, Andrew, and I had traveled east several hundred miles to camp for a few days in the friends walking 2mountains of North Carolina. It was a good choice and that first hour of hiking was the affirmation of our good decision making.

And then, an hour or so into the hike things began to change. We were still having a good time. We were still walking through the trees. The river, however, was far below us as we were now on a steep incline making our way up the mountain. There was less dirt on the path and more rocks. Finding our footing took more intentionality. Taking a deep breath took a bit more effort as well – not so much because of the altitude, but because of the energy we were having to exert. People from Houston are not used to such climbs – unless they work in an office building and regularly take the stairs! It was still a good hike, but we no longer were able to just take in the sights and sounds. Our focus was directed toward the hike itself more than the landscape.

I discover that life gets like that sometimes. For a while we move along at a good pace. The air feels fresh, our energy is good, life feels at peace. Then, somewhere along the way, things change. The road gets a bit steeper – the burdens get heavier and the to-do lists get longer. We no longer seem to enjoy the life we’re living. Our focus is now on putting one foot in front of the other. Our focus is on getting at least one or two tasks finished before we must go to bed and get some sleep so we can make it through another jam-packed day. The daily grind requires so much just to keep moving forward that we have no time to enjoy the life we live.

What I learned on the mountain I need to put into practice. I learned that in order to enjoy the scenery and in order to take in all there was to experience along the way I had to slow down and even stop for a bit. Sure, I had to do some of that just to catch my breath, but I also chose to stop along the way to take some pictures, to look at the trees, to watch a young doe making her way through the underbrush. Then, after a bit of looking around, we would get back to making our way up the mountain. It made the journey just as enjoyable as the accomplishment of reaching our destination.

Seems to me that’s what Sabbath is meant to be. Sunday, our Christian Sabbath, has often been for me a day of duty. It has been for me, in much of my life, a day where I MUST go to church. I always thought it was good, but it was a task I must accomplish. It has often been for me that Sunday and church was my destination. What I am learning more and more is that Sabbath is not the destination – it is the stop along the way. Sabbath, Sunday, is the time in life when we have the chance to stop and look around at what God is doing. Sabbath is the time when we can take a break from all the focused concentration of getting things done and instead we can take time to just enjoy looking at the life we have.

It seems Jesus was right (go figure!) when he said this:

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.”
(Mark 2:27 NET)

I realize it’s Monday, but let’s make a plan now for this coming Sunday. Let’s decide to enjoy the gift of Sabbath. Let’s decide to take a break, look around, enjoy the scenery, and regain the joy of the journey. That’s my plan this week. You?

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

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