Actually, the epiphanies aren’t lousy.
I’m just smarting over the low-grade but ruthless abuse I took to get them.
Yet I have no one to blame but myself.
I chose to hike 45 miles through the Smokey Mountains in 3 days.
Why? Because I love to hike. I love a ridiculous challenge. And I love hanging out with my friends.
The epiphanies, on the other hand, I credit to God. So, here are some lessons learned, thoughts stewed over and questions asked.
Never Trust a Downhill Hiker
Here’s the deal: Hiking etiquette demands downhill hikers yield to uphill hikers. This creates the perfect opportunity for uphill hikers to ask “How far to the top?”–the perennial question on every uphill hiker’s mind.
The answers always vary. “Half a mile. Half an hour. Fifteen minutes. You’re almost there.” The truth is, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Their sense of distance varies widely from yours. I eventually stopped asking.
Irreducible Complexity Remains Evolutions Biggest Stumbling Block
Hardly surprising that hanging out on the backbone of the Smokies drives me to think about evolution. Principle questions that I want answers to: Evolution posits that we have an instinct to survive, to reproduce. What is the origin of those instincts? What was it before complex organisms? What are the odds that organisms can survive the transition from cell division to one sex organisms to two sex organisms?
Swarms of Flies Sound Like Talking Humans
Don’t know why, but on certain stretches of the Appalachian Trail hordes of flies buzzed. Freaky, because you’re expecting to run into hikers but find yourself surrounded by tiny black winged insects.
Then, when you actually do hear humans talking, you’re not sure it’s not the flies. I can see why some people go AWOL on the Appalachian.
Ibuprofen Is a Good Over-the-Counter Drug
Thudding mile after mile up and down steep hills works ugly magic on your knees, joints, hips and head. Eventually the monotonous pounding deadens your motivation to keep hiking. Pop four ibuprofen, though, and a new, stout mad man emerges to finish the days hike.
Brotherly Love Ranks High on Pleasures of the Christian Life
I adore the unity of Christian brothers. The fellowship. The discussion. The accountability. The corporate worship around a camp fire. Brotherly love is evidence of God’s grace. And it is a means of grace I cherish deeply. Second only to marriage.
Stop Telling Unregenerate Sinners That God Loves Them
I’m guessing I mulled over this because of a few comments I’ve recently received that carried a tone of God’s unconditional love for sinners.
Yes, John 3:16 does say that God so loved the world. And he wishes that none perish. But John 3:36 says that unbelievers remain under the wrath of God. And Romans 1:18 declares that God’s anger falls upon the intentionally wicked. Nothing can deliver us from this predicament except Christ. Therefore, God’s love for unregenerate sinners IS conditional. It cost something. Dearly.
Here’s what I’m not saying: God relishes sending condemned people to hell. Jesus, in fact, grieved over the Jews’ disobedience. Paul said he’d take the curse for the sake of his brothers. But neither skirted the issue of God’s justice. God’s love begins and ends with the cross of Christ, not the sinner.
Bears DO Fall Out of Trees
Less than four miles to go and I heard something scrambling in the tall trees. Not uncommon with chipmunks everywhere. Yet I looked up and saw a black bear–maybe 150 pounds–plummet 30 feet to the ground. He immediately charged downhill, crashing through brush and disappeared. I think I spooked him.
Forgot What I Looked Like
No mirror, no see self. For three days. Bizarre. But does that mean I bring a mirror next time? No. I quite like the absence of concern for self.
By the way, the image is a photograph of Fontana Dam under construction back in the 40s. Our hike ended on top of the dam. We started at Newfound Gap. Total distance: 45 miles. Read more about the Appalachian Trail.