I am sure most of you, either have read, or seen what happened to that Michigan man that was killed in Yellowstone Park. The Mary Mountain hike is one of my favorites. It was my intention to hike it again. Well, then I thought it would be a good idea to hike Mallard Lake instead. That was the hike I was on last year when I experienced thunder, lightening, heavy wind, rain and hail. Along with the running streams. I was lucky to get out of that in one piece. Not to make the same mistake again(you see, I am learning!), I went to the visitor’s center so as to check with a ranger. I was lucky to meet a young helpful ranger. I told him about my experience of last year. He was kind enough to check the weather radar and give the all clear. I still had Mary Mountain in the back of my mind, so I asked what bear activity was there in that area. He told me there was a lot of activity in the Upper and Lower Basin, so it would stand to reason that there would be activity in the Mary Mountain area as well. With that information, I decided to forgo Mary Mountain, and I went to Mallard Lake instead. What a good move that was indeed! You can imagine how shocked I was to read in the paper of the death of that unfortunate man. Good information kept me out of harm’s way. Good direction enabled me to make a very healthy decision. Applying common sense to the information I was given, I was able to avoid the danger. Naturally these events were uppermost in my mind. I have had plenty of time to reflect on that close call. What has surfaced from that reflection?
I like to compare the spiritual journey to a long, long marathon hike. All that goes into the preparation for one of these challenges, is required of us who make this journey, as spiritual beings having a very human experience. The only difference is one can choose to take on the challenge of a marathon, or pass on it. I have chosen not to meet that particular challenge. The challenge of the marathon hike, we call the spiritual journey, that is a different matter. In order to have some semblance of sanity, in this life, I for one had no choice but to surrender to the challenge. As I get older,, and who is not right there beside me, I am embracing no, change that, I have no choice but embrace the great words of Merton; “God I have no idea where I am going. I do not know for certain where it will lead to, and I really do not know myself.” I have fewer and fewer answers, but a growing mountain of questions. On reflection, they can all be summed up in the two questions St. Francis had, his whole life; “Who are you God, and who am I?” Simple, yet so profound.
When I am in Yellowstone I go to the rangers for good, fact based information. They, from their experience, will point out to me the different hikes. They will be able to share with the me the challenges, the degree of difficulty, also the great rewards from my efforts. I have to make the decision to take the hike or not. The ranger cannot make the climb for me. It is I, who will ultimately will take a particular trail, and have my own unique experience. Each trail is different. Each and every time you hike is a new and unique experience. No two hikes are ever the same. No two events are ever the same. No two moments are ever the same. God does not repeat Himself. He has, he is, Infinite Imagination. We all are in need of “rangers” who will provide us with the necessary information so we can journey in confidence and safety. The more the research, the more secure and confident the hike. This begs the question, who are the “rangers” we consult on our continuous hike, called spiritual journey? What are the resources we read, research, seeking guidance and counsel? It is essential for our spiritual health, and well being to be in constant contact with a healthy source of information. We are in constant need of information, that will lead to formation. This formation is not for the sake getting information. The formation that is essential is that which will conform us to the will of Our Father, revealed to us in and through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. This results in a battle, no, not a battle, a war. A battle is over and done with, in minutes, hours, days, or in some cases weeks. We are in a war. That war is within. The battlefield is our soul.
My ego wants to be admired, stroked, puffed up, made to feel good. This happens when we allow ourselves to be conformed with that which is on the outside. Power, property, prestige, control, comparisons, competitions, popularity and pleasure are that which will lead us to live a life that is all based on what is on the outside. The inside, the spiritual is neglected and the price to be paid? We live our lives in a constant state of unrest, disharmony, disarray. There is no inner peace, security or serenity. The result is disaster. But let us not lose hope. When we get to the stage where we are facing death and disaster, strange as it may sound, we are in the best possible place. It is now that we are teachable. It is now that we are prepared to read, listen to and reflect on what the “spiritual rangers’ have to say about where we have landed, as the result of listening to the wrong voice of guidance. The voice of the as yet non transformed ego will lead us to many versions of hell, here on earth. The rangers will inform and offer guidance as to how to let go of one way of thinking and acting, so as to be free to enjoy at a level beyond our imagination, an inner life of peace, joy and love. Rather than having “hell on earth”, we will experience partially what will be fully, and eternally ours in heaven. We do not have to fight this war by ourselves. Our Gracious God will provide essential for a life that is “happy, joyous, and free are open hands. Opened in hope and confidence. Our Shepherd Ranger. This will not happened in the way we expect it to happen. It will be a slow process through places and spaces we never imagined would be part of our life’s hike. Life is so full of surprises. It stands to reason that He who is The Author of Life, The Surprise.