Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Find Your Way Through 2023!

Kalmiopsis Wilderness

Dear Friends,

When I was much younger, stronger and far more reckless than I am today, my yearly vacation from a stress-filled job as a law office administrator was to go backpacking in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Oregon. Kalmiopsis was the most rugged and remote wilderness area I could find on the West Coast. It had deep rushing rivers, steep rocky canyons, extreme elevation changes, mountain lions and it was known for its abundance of rattlesnakes. I would go in alone one for a week and never meet another backpacker. Backpacker Magazine had deemed the southern portion of Kalmiopsis too rugged and dangerous for backpackers. That made it the perfect place for me because I wanted to be alone. In the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, every day was a victory of survival. Where I pushed myself to the breaking point to discover my limitations and do some deep soul searching. And yes.. maybe it was foolish of me to take those risks, but as my grandmother used to say, “The good Lord looks after the foolhardy and the devil takes care of his own.”

Back at the office I would be asked, “Did you ever get lost?” Of course I did! When you are finding your way through a wilderness area using unmarked trails, animal trails and sometimes your own “shortcuts,” you will get lost. You frequently don't know where you are! There is disorientation and confusion but never fear. There’s no fear because an experienced backpacker expects to get lost and he or she is prepared.

Civilian GPS (global positioning system) devices had not been developed and my only navigational tools were a topographical map and a compass. But when your survival is at stake, you don't rely on what can be lost or broken. So you study the sun – always knowing its position in the sky at every time of the day. When you get lost, the position of the sun will help you to become reoriented and headed in the right direction. I carried a seventy pound pack, but my canteen held only enough water for one day. 

From the high places, you study the terrain to determine the likely places where a stream would be and you look for animal tracks, knowing that well-traveled animal trails often lead to water. You know that the North Star points north. You have faith that no matter how lost you find yourself at any moment, you will have the ability to reorient yourself. And I was without human companions, but I never traveled alone. Like the early Christian monks who found God in the desert, I too found God in the wilderness and walked every step in His Presence.

In life transitions we can also sometimes feel lost and disoriented. We don't know where we are at the moment and may not even know where we need to be. We may be confused and uncertain about which direction to go in. We may even feel a little frightened and fearful about our future. Both big and little upsets in life are all so.. well.. unexpected!

But in a journey through the wilderness or your journey through life, when you expect to be lost, you won't panic when you are. When you have prepared to be lost and have equipped yourself with tools for survival, you’re never lost for long. When you’re prepared, you have the confidence that you’ll never become so disoriented that you'll stumble off a “cliff” or wander in the “wilderness” forever. You fully trust that no matter how lost you get, you'll always find your way again.

In 2023, expect to be lost!  Expect there will be times when you will be disoriented and uncertain about your future. Expect a life transition. Expect times victoriously dancing in unrestrained joy! Expect times of tribulation, John 16:33 discontent and despair. Expect a serious situation you’ve not planned for. Expect the Enemy of this world to throw you a curve. Expect perhaps even a crisis of faith: Is God really here with me now? Life happens. Expect it. Prepare for it.

Prepare yourself with the right navigational tools. Your Bible is the “compass and map” that shows you where you are, where you need to be and how to get there. Know what the leading of the Holy Spirit feels like. Look for and follow in the tracks of godly men and women that lead to the Living Water. And study the Son. Know where He is at all times in your life. Know what His “voice” sounds like. No matter how lost you become, when you’ve studied the Son, He will always help you to become reoriented and headed in the right direction.

The wilderness of life is rugged. Expect to get lost. But if you’re a Christian believer you have a built-in “GPS.” That’s “God’s Positioning System” and His GPS will always help you find your way again. That’s why no matter what challenging circumstances you may find yourself in during 2023, you will have the ability, through the help of God, to recover and flourish again. Always expect victory! For He is with you when you're lost in the valley and He's there when you're dancing once again on the top of the mountain!  Amen?

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