Time was becoming a concern, and this path didn’t look familiar. I hoped she knew where she was going.
How ironic that I had placed my trust in someone who had never been here before.
Only the four of us had chosen to venture out and take the six-mile hike. All the rest stayed close, opting for a brief one-mile trek and a return to the cabins for a more restful unplugging. How long before they all began to wonder where we were and if we were okay?
Oh, I knew we were okay. And it was a good thing because the others were so engrossed in their weekend away they had become completely unaware of the time and how long we had been gone. They were doing exactly what we had all come here to do. They were untangling. Uncluttering their minds. Unknotting their souls. Good for them! As soon as I could get back to my cabin I would do the same. But I had no idea how much longer that would take because I didn’t know where I was.
For some time we had hiked single file, the trail narrowing so much it was impossible to walk side-by-side, so I had dropped back and let Carla take the lead. That’s not really accurate. I had let Carla take the lead because she was a lot more experienced at hiking than I was. I had dropped back because she was in a heck of a lot better shape than me, and frankly I couldn’t keep up. So, I trudged along behind her, making sure to follow in her footsteps.
I hadn’t seen a trail marker in quite some time. I hadn’t even looked for one. Were we even still on a trail? It wasn’t easy to tell. But I was trusting Carla to stay on the path. Staying on the right path; that, along with getting back to the cabin on time, had become my concern. My goal.
That wasn’t how I started.
I had started with one goal: to enjoy time with my friends. And to relax. The weather was ideal. The scenery breathtaking. The friends I was sharing the weekend with were pure delights. Those were ingredients for a perfect time together, but I lost sight of my goal. I took what should have been a beautiful journey and turned it into a chore. A checklist to get me to my destination. On a schedule. All in an effort to be productive and efficient.
When did my goal change?
How did my goal change?
You were doing so well. Who caused you to stop following the truth? It certainly wasn’t the one who chose you. Galatians 5:7-8, ERV
I started out so well. I kept my focus on the trail markers while I enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the weather, and most importantly my friends who came alongside on this gift of a journey. The one who designed the trail had been wise to place the markers on trees, keeping them at or above eye-level, so hikers could enjoy the beauty surrounding them while they stayed on the right path.
Somewhere along the way my focus shifted. I’m not sure when. It was subtle. Indiscernible, really. Looking back I think I just got tired. Then, I worried I would lose my footing, so I focused on the roots and rocks in the path. My focus shifted downward, only a few feet in front of me. Sure, sometimes I would look up just enough to see if Carla was still in front of me, but never enough to see the markers, much less the beauty.
I missed the whole point of the hike.
What’s worse, this wasn’t the first time it had happened. This was my third trip to this retreat. The third time I had struck out with the same goal to enjoy the journey with my friends and to relax. It had happened every time. Every year.
I’m tired of missing the point of my journey.
It can be the same with life, too, you know. We’ve each been given a fascinating journey with an array of magnificent friends alongside. Yet so often our focus shifts and we lose sight of the exquisiteness. Distracted by where the others are in relation to where we are, or afraid of tripping over some obstacle. Sometimes we may even become convinced that the One who designed our path placed those obstacles in our way just to make our journey more difficult. We worry that our timing is off, believing at any particular time that we’re not nearly as far along in our journey as we should be.
Sometimes I find myself missing the point of this journey, too. It becomes a chore. A checklist of things to do in order to be productive. I wouldn’t want to disappoint the One who created my path. But the sad thing is that He never asked me to be productive. He never asked me to hurry. He only asks me to walk the path with Him. He’ll keep me on the right path. He just wants me to join in beside Him.
Jesus said ‘I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener… Stay joined to me and I will stay joined to you. No branch can produce fruit alone. It must stay connected to the vine. It’s the same with you, you will produce plenty of fruit, but separated from me you won’t be able to do anything. If you don’t stay joined to me, you will be like a branch that has been thrown out and has dried up.’ John 15:1, 4-6a, ERV
Unplug. Untangle. Connect.
The retreat mentioned in this post is a two-night interfaith Christian women’s retreat designed to help women unplug from distractions, learn to untangle from obligations, and to connect with God and with friends. The purpose is to discover One Word that God has for each of us, guiding us to live with focus for the next year. (Ironically, the One Word God gave me at this retreat was RELAX)