I’ve taken up trail running. For those of you who are non-runners, trail running is not the same as running on a hike-and-bike trail. Trail running entails hopping over large boulders, tree roots, fallen limbs, and occasional mud puddles. It also includes times of consternation where one has to pause and say things like “And how am I supposed to get down there without falling?” Oh, yes, and trail running includes falls, too.
Why would a non-adventurous person like me want to engage in such activity?
Because her running partner is turning 40 and this is how she wants to celebrate: Run a 50K in California and then go to Napa.
(I’m totally on board with the Napa part. The 50k? Hmmmm, well, if it’s how I can get to Napa…)
Anyway, Friday was a 16 mile run, 8 of which were on aforementioned trail.
And, we got lost. In the woods.
On the plus side, we had water, it wasn’t hot, and we had a phone in case we just could not find our way out. So we didn’t completely freak out. On the minus side, we were, well, lost.
How did we know we were lost? At 4 miles in, we turned around to head back the way we came in. That doesn’t sound hard, except that pretty much the entire trail looks the same. Memorable landmarks are few and far between. Nevertheless, we were heading back when we came upon this really hilly part, about which I exclaimed, “Wow, that was like a roller coaster!” I was all smiles until I put a few pieces together:
1. We are supposed to be on our way back.
2. We have not done this roller coaster part before.
3. If we are on our way back and have not done the roller coaster, we are not going back the way we came in.
And 1 + 2 + 3 = We are lost.
We paused and took stock. No, we had not passed the random rock altar, nor had we gone through the “Scary Mountain Bike Path.” We were on a different part of the trail and had no idea how far we were from any exit. Good thing we had a 16 mile run planned.
What do you do when you’re lost? You figure this trail has to end sometime so you just keep running.
We did. Without a map or a plan, but with faith in our trail system and some common directional sense, we made it out.
We were relieved.
Later when I was sitting (oh, yes, sitting, so underrated) at my computer, my running partner, Kelli, messaged me:
I think we took a wrong turn before our turn-around point. I must have wrong about which direction we came from.
To which, my writerly mind replied:
I think there’s a blog post in that!
And she said:
What? Don’t ever listen to your running partner?
No, Kelli, I said. Remember where you came from.
To which she replied:
Yes, but when you’re in a labyrinth in the woods, it’s really hard to tell where you came from.
Isn’t that the truth, Sisters? When we feel lost in our spiritual wilderness, when everything looks so much the same, when we’re climbing over boulders and tripping over tree roots, when we’re scraping our knees and our hands are bleeding, when we don’t know which path to choose because they all look treacherous…it’s really hard to tell where we’ve come from. Come from, really.
When I feel spiritually lost in the wilderness, I want to be able to mark all the things that preceded this place – the good and the bad.
“It’s always good to remember where you come from and celebrate it. To remember where you come from is part of where you’re going.” – Anthony Burgess
Why? Because to remember all the places I have been causes me to remember all the things God has seen me through.
Despite the trials of this life, I am still running, speaking, writing, parenting, wifing, friending, living, creating, breathing. God has been there before when I have been lost, when I have had no idea which paths to take, when I’ve been banged up, trying to figure out how am I supposed to get down or out without falling…apart…completely.
I thought I’d be all tidy with this post with some sort of 3 step plan for Wilderness Wandering, but who makes it out of the wilderness in 3 tidy steps? Instead, I’m going to leave you with a poem from my old blogging days at Finding Heaven.
In the wilderness, it is easy to find myself
Scratched up, stumbling,
Always trying to climb up or over or out.
It is a place of straining to find light –
Hope, joy, and freedom.
There are times when I realize
I have just been walking in circles,
Rehashing the same laments,
Examining the same scars,
Asking the same questions –
Are You still there?
Which way are You leading me?
Will this pain end?
Sometimes I just sit for a moment,
Laying back and looking into the trees
And through the tangled briar,
But despite my confusion,
I know that this wilderness,
Is necessary for freedom.
You must tell me the stories behind my scars
So that I might see how You were there all along.
So that I might see how Your redemptive love
Transcends tragedy and emptiness and unfulfilled
Sometimes this wilderness feels lonely,
But You have assured me that Your hand is
You have assured me that Your hand is secure.
You have assured me that I am never alone.
If you’re a wilderness wanderer, if you’re feeling lost or broken or hopeless, please let us know so we we might pray for you. If you have a story to share about how remembering where you’ve come from (or remembering what you’ve come through) and how that has helped you navigate new wilderness stretches, will you share with us?
If you are interested in this devotional, you have a chance to win a copy! To enter, leave a comment about today’s post or how you stay plugged into God (during Advent, Christmas, or any time!). If you don’t win, you can purchase a copy of this book here.
This week’s SDG Connections Posts:
This week, Melissa Smallwood shares her own personal journey through foster care and how this has impacted her views and decisions with regards to adopting and fostering children in her adult life.
SDG Gathering Important Information
Lisa Smith is helping me facilitate our gatherings each week. She is visiting those of you who link up on “even” numbers and I am visiting the “odd” (don’t worry, I’m not calling YOU odd). She will also be sharing on Mondays with you from time to time, opening up her heart and life to you, as you faithful do with us each week you link up. We do have some important housekeeping items about this gathering, so if you have not read them, please come here to catch up. The condensed version: Link up ONE post that shares your heart authentically and be sure to check in with some of your sisters who have linked up with you. Leave a heartfelt word of encouragement for them after you visit their space. This is a community where we actively seek to get to know each other.