I remember the first step onto the trail. It was odd--the three of us being taken from a beautiful home in the mountains, and dumped into a low-grade campsite next to a mountain lake. We "hiked" all of fifty yards before setting up our tents, and hanging our bear bags in neighboring trees. We made a campfire, had a snack and then turned in. There was a lot of hiking to do tomorrow.
The next morning we headed around the lake and up the side of a mountain. We were one hundred miles from our target destination. For the next three days, we saw no toilet, bed, shower, faucet, computer, TV, or A/C. During that time we had no cell service to receive calls or text messages. We filtered water which we drank by the gallon, and heated to prepare our coffee and dehydrated food. We washed with alcohol swabs, and slept on the ground with only a tent and sleeping bag between us and the cold nights and earth.
As we began the steep climb I wanted to quit. I knew I'd fail. I wondered if we'd be safe. I doubted myself completely. I knew it was more comfortable back home. I began to sweat and ache and stink. Why in the world was I here?
On the second evening, after a day during which we logged twenty mountain trail miles, my back ached from my pack's weight, and my feet bled from blistering. But I felt the sprouting of joy in my soul. I could do this. I was up to the rigors. I began to believe I could accomplish difficult things. My mind began to clear and my writing was alive and creative. The stuff that usually occupied me as I sought the maximum comfort in life, was nowhere in sight. I was alive...not hungry or sore or lonely or deprived!
In the years since that that hike, I have looked back on it with such longing. Those were some of the best days of my life. I long to spend time on that trail once again. Why? Because it was cushy and easy? No. Because everything that makes life easy was stripped away...and I was alive.
Lent is coming. This is your chance to fast something you heavily depend on. Something that comforts you. Something you love. Something that makes you think you are alive when you are enjoying it. Next Wednesday is the day. February 17.
What are you giving up for Lent this year?