There are two kinds of people in the world. There are explorers and there are hikers. Many of us begin life as explorers. We end up slowly becoming hikers. I certainly fall into that pattern. As a child, I was an explorer. At this point in my life, I’m really more of a hiker.
An explorer is someone who heads out. He is looking for something interesting. His hope is that it’s something which is somehow new. He runs the risk of getting lost. He faces the challenges associated with covering new ground.
I am fortunate to have grown up with a family that loves to camp. One of my favorite things to do was to just wander away from our site. I disdained paths. I would walk through pricker bushes and poison ivy patches. I would jump over fallen trees and slip under boulders.
Sometimes I would be rewarded with a glimpse of the sort of wild-life that I probably would otherwise have missed. A doe, a snake, a tremendous, regal falcon.
Often times I would discover these places: a beautiful clearing where the canopy overhead turned the sunlight into these refined, green beams. A natural shelter where I might rest in the shades and just breathe for a while. A tremendous, granled, unusual tree that seems just bursting with wisdom.
Of course, sometimes I’d be only rewarded with scratches or poison ivy. I’m a guy with no sense of direction. The mere fact that somehow I managed to avoid getting ridiculously lost is proof of God’s loving providence in my life. And sometimes, there was really no little moment of “ahhh” at all.
But while those “ahhh” moments were wonderful, they weren’t the point. When you go chasing after those “ahhh” moments they tend to run away from you. I learned that early. I just meandered, wandered even. I was in the moment. And it was wonderful.
These days, I hike. I keep my clothes cleaner and my body free of rashes. I make it back when I say I am going to. Usually I know pretty much where I am. The most important difference is hard to describe: I have a reason, a destination that I can put into words. I am there to walk that path, to reach the destination. I might have fun along the way. But I would be willing to trade any of the little moments on that walk in exchange for achieving the goal of reaching the end of the trail. It is not so with exploring. The end isn’t the point at all.
I am not here to see that we should always go exploring and never hike. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say that we shouldn’t “hike” in our experiences with God.
But we’ve become full-time hikers, in our relationships with him. We operate in the domain of maps and compasses, not wonders and mysery. And God is so much wonder and mystery. We miss out when we do not take advantage of this facet of his nature. We so rarely revel in his nature. We so rarely explore and we so often hike.
I think this is why we’re called to be like children by Jesus. Children are the true explorers. What does this all mean, in terms of God?
We need to throw away the maps of our expectations, sometimes. We need to drop our agendas, our goals. We pray for people and we pray for things. When is the last time we’ve prayed simply to be with God. We read scripture to understand, we read to prove a point, we read because we’ve agreed to read x number of minutes a day… why can’t we just read with the understanding that we are reading the words of our maker with our maker?
(For those keeping track of such things, this is the first “mystery” post not in chronological order; this post goes after the one which ‘tries again’ at explaining what it is to dwell in mystery.)