“Life as God’s child is a life full of upgrades,” my boss told me one day long ago. I agreed with him wholeheartedly then, but I agree even more the longer I live, and even more strongly today.
I’ve been on a pilgrimage for the past ten weeks. I carry my home, clothes and food on my back and spend each day walking onwards, sometimes uphill, sometimes down, but always forward–no matter the weather.
When people ask me what I’m doing, I have all sorts of different replies. Sometimes I tell them I’m thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, sometimes I say I’m training to be a backpacking guide, sometimes I say I’m running from the law and sometimes I say I’m out here to experience miracles–that I’m on a journey of taking God at His word.
Most of these answers are true, but I like the latter answer best because it is the one I go back to when times get tough.
My friend has a CD of stories told by a missionary I know as The Pineapple Story Man. She plays it over and over, so I’ve had the chance to hear it now and then when I drive with her. There is a story The Pineapple Story Man tells that sticks with me. It’s about a boy who believes in miracles and God rewards him with exactly what he asked for. “God doesn’t need our help!” The Pineapple Story Man says emphatically. “He didn’t worry when He saw Elijah pouring water over the sacrifice. He didn’t say, “Umm, just sprinkle the water, Elijah. Don’t fully soak that sacrifice. Just in case.” No! The Creator of the world doesn’t need our help!”
I remember that emphatic declaration many times a day as I travel this pilgrims road.
The Creator of the world doesn’t need my help to fulfill His promises. “If I clothe the lilies of the field in all their splendor, which are alive one day and dead the next, how much better will I take care of one of my own children?” He asks.
I hold the promises of the Lord in one hand and my experiences in the other hand, and often compare them.
It is a vulnerable thing to be 400 miles from home with only $8.00 in your pocket. It is a vulnerable thing to sit for hours at a trailhead where there is no cell reception, and trust that Jesus will send someone to give you a ride into town. It is a vulnerable thing to live under cloudy skies with nowhere to go when it rains except under the shelter you are carrying in your backpack.
It is vulnerable because there is no backup plan. No place for me to gather up all of my internal strength and pull off a smashing victory by planning every detail perfectly, or pulling some witty piece of knowledge out of my brain just in time to save the day.
Out here, there are no backup plans. Just one hour at a time with Jesus.
And so when we are cold and hungry and narrowly escape encountering strangers while using the forest as a restroom, Jesus sends us Gatorade and chocolate bars to say that we are still worth celebrating, and that He will provide us with strength to go on.
When we are dealing with an injury and reach the trailhead too late to hike into town, we pray and Jesus sends us a trail runner to drive us to where we need to be–just as the first drops of torrential rain begin to fall.
When I find myself stranded at a campground with no resources to pay for a campsite, Jesus speaks to the owners heart and he gives us a campsite and firewood for free without knowing a word of our struggle.
When my hiking partner is sick beyond words and desperately in need of rest, He sends a group of botanists our way who are planning to drive right through the town we hope to go to, and refreshes my mind by allowing me to have a 20-minute conversation with the head gardener of the famous grounds and gardens of Monticello.
“My plans are not to harm you! They are to give you hope, and speak life into your future!” Jesus says through these experiences, upgrading me time and time again into greater trust in His protection, greater faith in His love, greater understanding of His vast material storehouse that is meant for the use of the saints of God.
What a heritage!
So I sit here in yet another library in yet another strange town, and ponder this strange and exhilarating journey I am on. Beside me is a man who is researching Tootsie Rolls and scribbling furious notes on his stack of papers while laughing in a most unpredictable manner. I think I’ll soon leave and buy a half-gallon of chocolate milk to drink while I walk through the rain in search of my friends who are also in town.
After that, who knows? I have no plans, no schedule, no home. The sky is the limit!
One thing I know for sure, there is no place on earth where the fame of the King is not proclaimed! His promises endure forever! What a good, good Father!