One of my most favourite activities year round is hiking, and I especially love the Bruce Trail. Any chance I get, I try to fit in a hike, and this past Sunday was no exception. I had a window of time in the late afternoon, so I decided to head over to Mt. Nemo.
If you have ever hiked the Bruce Trail section at Mt. Nemo, you will know that there is a section of about 20 metres located just off the Walkers Line entrance that is quite treacherous, especially in the winter. My need to gear up for the next couple of weeks with a rigorous hike in God’s creation outweighed the potential hazards this part of the trail might bring. Besides, seeing parents with children and hand holding couples making their way up and down the icy, rocky trail challenged me to continue.
Once I reached the top of Mount Nemo, the endorphins had kicked in and I deeply inhaled the fresh air, eager to spend time with the Lord on the mountain. The path was slippery and icy, the journey slow, as I cautiously made each step. I noticed that others had veered off the Bruce Trail path, thus creating new trails that were not as icy. So I ventured off in a new direction, hoping this would allow me to pick up the pace. Passing other hikers along the way, we shared friendly smiles, words of caution, perhaps unspoken understanding of the life challenges currently before us.
After some time of hiking and talking to God, I realized I was no longer on the marked paths and was not entirely sure where I was, having reached a number of dead ends that only opened up to farmer’s fields. I was lost. Thankfully, the Bruce Trail app helped me to find my way back to the marked trail. However, by the time I looped back to the top of the rocky icy terrain I needed to descend to get back to my car, it was dark. As I climbed down the wooden step ladder to the precipice and looked at the journey ahead of me, I was not really sure how I was going to get back to my car safely. The path had become even more slippery as temperatures dropped, and I no longer could hear voices of other hikers. It was dark and I was by myself to navigate the rough terrain ahead of me. Considering my options, the only logical ones were to proceed with caution, keep going, and pray.
A number of strategies proved to be helpful; holding onto tree branches to keep from falling, veering off the path to avoid the well beaten slippery sections, and most beneficial; crouching down, letting go, and sliding on my butt. Other than self rebuke for venturing out too late in the day and the repercussion of sore muscles on Monday, I had survived the journey safe and sound.
I can’t help but think how this experience reflected much of what is going on in my own life journey right now and perhaps in many of your lives as well. Most of us are struggling with not knowing what the days, weeks, and months ahead are going to look like. The challenges that lay before us are overwhelming, and we are left with many uncertainties on how to move forward. Christmas postpartum coupled with a lack of close connection beyond those we live with have only exacerbated feelings of grief, anxiety, and fear. Options on how to proceed are limited and no one has created an app, or playbook, that provides the best known strategies on how we can approach the days ahead and navigate through emotional overload.
Here is what I do know. Prayer works. Recently, I have been rereading a book entitled Fervent: A Woman's Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer, by Priscilla Shirer. Actually, let me rephrase that, I am not just reading the book, I am working through this “industrial-grade” survival guide, exercising my prayer muscles, and learning to pray with precision, so that I am always ready for rough terrain. Here is what I realized while in the midst of my descent down Mount Nemo: I wasn’t scared. I was talking to God the entire time, stopping once in a while to be still and hear His voice (Okay, maybe to also listen for coyotes, although I don’t know what I would have done if I encountered one).
Just like I used the strategy to grab hold of tree branches to get down Mt. Nemo, intentional, deliberate, strategic prayer, moves us to grab hold of Jesus and everything He is and has already done for us. Paul the apostle says it like this: “Put on all of God’s armour so that we will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil...Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Ephesians 6:11, 18-19.
Our current reality has pushed us to pivot and move off the well-beaten path over the course of the last year. I know, we are all tired of that P word, pivot, however, let's not tire of another P word. Prayer. Someone once used this acronym to describe prayer as:
Perhaps we need to change course in the way that we are praying or exercise new prayer muscles we may not have used in a while. Crouch down, let go, and trust God to do his work. Even if you don’t know what to pray, know that the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the Saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:26-28)
I like my apps; The Bruce Trail app and Strava app are two I use to help me navigate my hikes. Fervent prayer requires the sword of the Spirit, the word of God to help us navigate life’s journey. Praying scripture is a precise and integral way to pray that I am learning to do more specifically. Praying the Psalms is a great way to begin and, yes, there is an app for that. Try praying Psalm 91 today.
Thank you for your prayers for the school, teachers, and students. Our prayer for you is this, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
In Christ Alone,
Director of Learning