I wrote the following on Saturday evening after a day with my niece and nephew and as I sat down to do a little work on some FTN materials, hope it will be a blessing:
Today I climbed a mountain, or at least part of it, with my six year-old niece and not quite three year-old nephew. I did not set out with the goal of climbing a mountain, but that is where we found ourselves. The goal had been to take our meager little lunch, “pack it in” to the picnic area at Hyalite Reservoir south of Bozeman, MT, eat it, walk around the reservoir a bit, and then “pack it back out”. Everything but the “walking around the reservoir a bit” worked.
We set off down a nice paved path, which soon gave way to dirt and stones, and wound, not along the shore, but up the side of the mountain. We didn’t take the whole loop, for as I found out later, it is several miles long, but we did walk a long ways, especially for someone who is barely three feet tall. We walked up some steep inclines, and down some soggy slopes, around jagged rocks and over fallen logs. We investigated new types of plant life that the children had never seen, took in the beauty of the sun on crystal clear dewdrops that clung to leaves about the forest floor. We laughed and talked and sang (as much to keep the bears away as anything!) and had a grand time.
I kept waiting for the complaining to begin, but it never came. The children just kept walking on through the forest, one step after another. Their chattering and smiling keeping us moving at a pace that was quick for their little legs. At one point, as we were on the return portion of the trip I looked at my nephew, who was up well past his nap time, and could see the drooping of his heavy eyelids and that flush of weariness in his cheeks, but when I asked if he needed me to carry him, he shook his head and kept on stepping, one step after another.
At what was to become our halfway point, because it was the point at which we turned back, we found a place where the children could sit down on a log and rest while I slipped to the edge of a little ridge that looked out over the shores of the reservoir to see what lay ahead. I had just reached the edge when a motion below me caught my eye and I turned to see the smooth movements of a fisherman casting his line out across the water. While scolding myself for having been a bit noisy and probably scaring away his catch, I wondered how he had gotten there, how long he had been there. You see, in all our walking we had not met a single soul past the split off where the trail took the higher path. I contemplated it for a moment, wondering if the man had come a different way, but my attention was drawn away as I heard my niece call to my nephew. I turned to see that his little legs had carried him nearly to my side. He wanted to see what I saw. I showed him the lake, and the fisherman and suggested that it was time to head back. The children agreed and eagerly made their way back to the path.
As we walked the fatigue that everyone was feeling took control for a few moments. In that short span of time all that could be heard was the soft thud, thud, thud of our feet on the compacted soil beneath us. The forest seemed to swallow all other sound. My niece turned to me with eyes wide with amazement and shouted in her most energetic whisper, “It’s so quiet.” Just a few minutes earlier the children had been awed by the sound of the wind in the tops of the pine trees. At first, it had sounded like we were approaching some type of waterfall or stream. Then we realized it was the wind and the children decided it was God’s voice. He was telling us to see everything around us that He had made for us. Funny, He does speak in a still, small voice, doesn’t He.
The silence did not last long, soon we were finding sticks and stones and moss and a million other things to capture our attention and keep our conversation going. We stopped once and took pictures of trees that rose so high above us into the brilliant sky that looking up into them made you feel very small and somewhat dizzy. Then we pressed on.
As my nephew’s little legs grew tired he held my hand more often. Once he tripped on a little rock and his feet went out from under him, but he did not fall, he just kept holding onto my hand until he regained his balance.
Soon, our hike was done, and, even though we were all tired, as we rounded that last bend and crossed the little footbridge that signaled the trail’s end, we all sort of regretted that it was over. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that we easily covered two miles together, perhaps more. And a happier two miles I’ve never known.
Throughout the evening my mind just kept going back to that path and I kept wondering how those little legs carried my nephew all that way, up and down and around and over, but now, as the day comes to a close, I see that God had something bigger He wanted me to see. It started a week ago, at a church service. The pastor was starting a new series on the book of Acts, specifically on what we learn about being “consequential” from the book of Acts. Since he was just beginning, his text was, of course, from the first few verses of the first chapter. His message was on the need for preparation. It struck a cord with me, because this is where I am in certain aspects of life and ministry. Certain things must be prepared before the next step can be taken. It was encouraging to be reminded that there must be preparation in order for a ministry to grow and to move on to the next step.
Tonight, as I contemplated our hike and sat down to work on this portion of material, which was already entitled “Take It One Step At A Time”, everything came together. We live in a microwave and push-button society: You push the button and, voila, instant whatever-it-was-that-you-wanted. But ministry, any ministry not just ministry to the fatherless, does not work on a push-button system. It works on a hiking system. It is achieved just as our hike was achieved. When we set out, we had no idea where the path would lead us. It looked like a well-blazed trail that many had taken, then it grew narrower and we discovered that it was really quite unpopulated, but we kept walking. Eventually, we reached a turning point, we got direction from the sign that was provided, and walked on accordingly. My little nephew and niece, with their short little legs, made the same distance as that fisherman. They made the same distance that I made. They did it the same way that we did it – one step at a time.