Last week we took a few days off and went up to the Great Lake north of us. While up there, we find a spot to hunker down, but we drive around to different scenic areas, just to see the beauty. It's beautiful country, with trails and waterfalls and wildflowers and rivers. Scout gets to come along, which is a bonus. She likes to hike too, but I'm not so sure she is as enamored of the views as we are.
One day we drove a bit north, to a great little town way up north, and then we drove up the Gunflint Trail a bit, just enough to get a view from a place called the Pincushion Scenic Overlook. It was pretty foggy and overcast, though, and there wasn't much to see of the town and the lake below. The guide hadn't told us about hikes from the place, but I saw a hiking trail, and I thought we should take it. "Just to get moving," I said. I wanted to get my thirty minutes a day (at least) in. So we set out on the narrow uphill path, through pine forest and meadow. After about twenty minutes, I said to my husband that I just wanted to go far enough to see something, but there didn't seem to be anything much ahead except more trail. So after walking up a little and down a little again, we turned around and went back.
We both agreed: we didn't see anything.
As it turned out, we had just walked a tiny bit of the Superior Hiking Trail. It is 277 miles from Duluth to the Canadian Border. The trail moves through pine forests and along Lake Superior, through groves of wildflowers and around waterfalls. But from our perspective, it didn't seem spectacular at all. "We didn't see anything."
Here's my confession: I say that we "hike" a bit, but we aren't really hikers. We gravitate to the short hikes, the ones that quickly lead to somewhere with a magnificent view of something or another. We are fit enough and are willing to put up with some rough terrain, but only for a little while (we have short attention spans). We don't come equipped with backpacks and water and special shoes; we don't train to make the long treks that true hikers do.
On our short trip up the Superior Hiking Trail, I briefly considered the life of faith: discipleship, for all it means. And I thought that the life of faith is like the Superior Hiking Trail. If you are only on it for a short time, it might seem like there's not much to see. If you are only on it for an hour a week, you might see a spectacular waterfall, but it's more likely that you'll be disappointed. But if you are on it for all 277 miles, all 87 of your years, you might sing a hymn that makes you cry, or give a cup of water to a stranger, or pray with a child. You'll walk by a lot of ordinary terrain, but you'll walk by some spectacular sights as well.
But there's something else too: maybe those ordinary places aren't as empty as they seem, especially to a seasoned hiker. On that short walk up the Superior Hiking Trail, I remember more than once glancing mindlessly at a wildflower, or stopping for just a moment to look at a ripening berry of some kind. "I wonder what that is," I thought, and then I moved on. Maybe the meadow and pines are full of wonder, for those who have eyes to see.
Maybe our ordinary days and times, our prayers and hymns, our ordinary worship and service and sacrifice, are full of God, for those who have eyes to see.