Don't Lie To Yourself
By Leah Fuller
I stumbled out of the brush into the creek bed. Finally, I had reached the creek I had been looking for as a reminder that I was still headed in the right direction. I was overjoyed that I had reached it sooner than I expected and still had several hours of daylight. I was tired and really wanted to be finished with my trek for the day. I quickly checked my map and compass.
“Wait a minute” I thought to myself, “I thought the creek would be flowing the other direction.”
I stood there uncertain for a few moments, trying to retrace my steps, then firmly came to the conclusion that I had been paying attention to the landscape and it had matched my journey to the creek. Therefore, I was, in fact, in the right place—despite the fact that the creek was flowing in the opposite direction it should be and my compass arrow was pointing south instead of north as it should be. “Oh well,” I thought, and continued on.
About thirty minutes later, tired and a bit bedraggled, I stopped still in front of a sign saying, “Bee Bluff Trail.” I had passed this same sign nearly two hours earlier. My head started spinning as my mouth went dry and my vocal chords let out a groaning “Noooooo...” I knew it immediately. Back at that creek, I had lied to myself because I could not believe that I had just hiked for two hours in the wrong direction. The sun was low on the horizon, too, and I had twice the distance to cover to the place I had hoped to camp. In a frenzy, I turned on my heels and began hiking with a desperate fervor. My thoughts were running wild: “I'm a wilderness instructor, I can't be lost! How could I have broken the cardinal rule of navigation? How am I going to make it to my final destination with the time I have left? Why didn't I trust my compass?”
Several times I found myself off the trail, back-tracking to find the blue blazes that marked the ungroomed trail. My breathing was labored, angry, desperate. Then suddenly I tripped and landed on my knees. I let out a cry of pain and sank lower to the ground. Then I heard a voice, a quiet whisper, ”What are you afraid of?”
“What?” I cried out.
“What are you afraid of? You have the tools.” The voice was barely audible. “Breathe.”
I took a couple of deep breaths and looked around me, taking in the full extent of my situation. What was I afraid of? Being lost? I had the skills to navigate well and to successfully camp anywhere at any time. I could hike through the night if I needed to or camp on the ridge if I stocked up on water. So what was I afraid of?
As my mind started to clear, I realized that I was afraid of what others might think if they heard this story—a story of how I, wilderness instructor extraordinaire, had hiked two hours in the wrong direction. How silly! There wasn't anyone around for miles. I had chosen to do a 3-day, solo hike on the Pioneer Forest Trail, and nobody had to know any of this.
I learned something that day, though, in the midst of being disoriented, angry, and afraid. My God knows me. He knows that when my present reality does not match my desires and longings, I struggle with trusting Him. He knows me deeply and intimately. He knows that I like to make plans and that I struggle when the plan changes. He knows just what it takes for me to listen to Him. He knows just how to affirm me, through the beauty and struggle of the wilderness. He knows when I need to rest and when I need to work. He knows my thoughts even before I do. He knows my weaknesses and insecurities. And He knows my strengths and gifts even better because He created me. He knows me...and I can trust Him.
I had been wrestling with God's silence during that season of life and discovered that He had been there all along. My being wrapped up in the little disappointments in life had prevented me from seeing the bigger picture of the masterpiece God was working on in me.
So, I built a little altar there on the trail, wrote on a piece of paper the fears that had been plaguing me, and set it on fire. I laid my desire for where I wanted to be, who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to get there down on that altar and surrendered them to the Lord.
I rose from my knees and resumed my trek, turning off the trail when I arrived on the ridge and heading away from my original camping destination. As the sun set low over the western hills, I found a cozy spot on the side of the ridge facing east, set up camp, and collapsed into bed. The next morning I was awakened by the most beautiful sunrise over the eastern hills that I have ever seen. The cool, crisp air of autumn seared my lungs, and I breathed deeply of that moment. It was a moment of release, a moment of peace, a moment of surrender. God had rewarded me with something better than what I had been in search of...Himself and the joy of life lived in His Spirit on this journey. “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure because you will not abandon me to the grave nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in Your presence” (Psalm 16:9-11).