I was finishing up a hike in Steamboat Springs. There is a great feeling that comes with being able to see the trailhead, it is even better (the journey) down-hill. As I was coming down the trail, enjoying the last part of a very enjoyable hike, I heard the cry of someone who was not having a good day. I came around a bend, standing there was a young mother looking down the incline. She said " My son is not able to ride his bike up the hill, and he is really upset". Her daughter was pushing her bike up the hill, and seemed relaxed about it. It was very different with her brother. He did not look like a very happy camper, as he pushed his bike up the incline. He was a really upset young boy, and was not ready to listen to, or accept, his mother's words of understanding and support. She was so positive.
On the other hand, his body language was loud and clear: “I am not listening to you, I am not paying attention to you, just leave me alone.” How often have we, as adults , found ourselves in the same boat? Thank the good Lord, it is not the Titanic! For some very unfortunates, it is.
I finished up my hike, but I was not finished with the encounter, with what had happened back on the trail. I knew there was a lesson to be learned. I waited for it to surface. Whatever is REAL, for you and I, reveals to us some aspect of the spiritual. In all that is real, is perfectly hidden, and perfectly revealed, the Divine Presence, our God. Remember that old axiom; " every picture tells a story" ? Well, today we are told, and have to be continually reminded, all reality is the ongoing revelation of God. That is the meaning of the
expression, 'the sacrament of the present moment'. So what has surfaced so far, what gift has come from that meeting on that hike, on that particular trail?
Well as you know, I like to compare our spiritual journey to a hike.
( Read the blog from this time last year). On the hike of life, we find out what it really means to be spiritual beings, enwrapped in the oh-so human condition. On an ongoing, daily basis, we have to continue to learn, to be taught, how to not just exist, not to just survive, but live fully, this human journey we call life.
That morning I began to hike a new trail. Yet, what I encountered was the same, eternal struggle that is met in every human endeavor. If it is an authentic human event, the action of a knowing mind and a consenting will, then it involves both the human and the divine. That is why every, and I really mean every person, place, event, action, is my coming face to face with a new revelation of who my God is for me. Yes, our God is ever new, and at the same time so ancient. Here, is a good time to reflect on the famous words of St, Augustine, "O, Beauty, ever ancient, ever new". These can be our words as well, as we live out each and every new moment in a creation that is ever ancient and ever new. From all I have read and been told, this world of ours has been in existence for billions of years. (This week I overhead a park ranger describe what happened 700 million years ago to give us what we have today.) Into this ancient environment we are released to discover the very ancient, and the ever new. We are asked to live a fruitful life in a time and place that never was and never will be again. Each step is a unique step. Each life is a life destined by God, to be unique. The more unique we have the courage to live our lives the more the uniqueness of our God is revealed to all creation. God is not threatened by uniqueness. We are . We want conformity to expectations, so we will not be threatened by sudden newness. God always appears in the most unexpected places, and in the most surprising of people. (God as a vulnerable baby? God betrayed, broken, bruised, beaten.) God is not threatened by seeming loss. He turns all of our so called temporal losses into eternal gains.
For that young boy he came face to face with his limitations. He had to deal with what he was unable to do right now. As I told him, in time and with practice, he will conquer that hill. Not the next day nor the next week. It will happen on the condition he plays his part. I pointed out to the young mother, this was a teachable moment on what it means to be human. She can gift her child with a sense of healthy shame, I am human, I am limited. How many of us were never taught that lesson? We had to learn it the hard way. Yet there are so many in denial. We are the ones who want to be perfect. This is a physical impossibility for us humans. This is not defeat. This is not loss. This is us being offered the opportunity to accept, in freedom, our limitations. The result? We now have a real, Savior God. We also are freed from the burden of perfectionisn. We are freed from the bondage of the false self. So then we are given the gift of being able to embrace our called faults, failings, disappointments. We are now lead to the great freedom of being able to live a life of honesty. This is not the end. This leads to a beginning, on the hike, that is ever ancient, ever new. This, of necessity will enable us, will empower us, to claim our belovedness on a new, and ever deepening level.
Thomas Merton has this to say in his book "No Man Is An Island”,
" We must accept the fact that we are not what we would like to be. We must cast off our false, exterior self like the cheap and showy garment that it is. We must find our real self, in all its elemental poverty but also in its very great and very simple dignity; created to be a child of God, capable of loving with something of God's own sincerity and His unselfishness".