Throughout the summer, my wife and I enjoy taking our kids outside to the local state parks. We hike and kayak. The girls climb trees and catch frogs. They look for fish in the water, and though unsuccessful, we went hunting for tadpoles this spring. We love being outside with them, and they love it too.
Here’s the down side…your group can only move as fast as its slowest member. In our case, our 2 year old does as much falling as walking. You parents out there know exactly what I’m talking about. Skinned knees, tears, and constant reminders to “keep walking” are regular parts of any hike with our crew.
So why do we do it? Why do we take these little ones on forced marches? Because it’s good for them. Learning to walk through the woods is a skill. Watching where you step, picking up your feet, dodging spider webs, and learning to get over fallen logs is all part of becoming skilled and self-sufficient in the woods. It isn’t always fun in the moment, but in the big picture, we all have a blast.
When we become a follower of Christ, we need to realize fully the situation we are getting into. By following Jesus, we are agreeing that we are going to allow him to do what is necessary to shape and change us. His first goal is to make us whole and righteous so that one day he will present us to God the Father as finished gems – cut, polished, and mounted. That process will probably be more painful than pleasant, but in retrospect, our journey with Christ will have been worth it.
A few years ago, I was backpacking with a small group of men. All of the guys are husbands and fathers. All the guys take their kids into the woods. We were cruising along this particular trail and making pretty good time when one of the guys announces loudly and proudly, “I’m hiking at an adult man pace!” Of course, we all knew exactly what he meant and went chuckling down the trail happy with our adult man pace.
It feels good to get out and stretch your legs, and spiritually speaking, some of you are faster than others. You’re more well read, more intelligent, and more articulate. It’s easy to get out ahead of others and show off how talented you are. But once upon a time, you were the stumbling two year old who didn’t realize that stepping on that particular wet rock was going to cause you to fall flat.
Part of traveling together in the church is understanding that those who’ve walked with Christ a while have a responsibility to teach other’s how to walk with him too. Oh, I suppose we could expect everyone else to just keep up with us, but the fact is, we all need mentors and teachers. We all need someone who is willing to walk through life at our pace with us so that we can learn to walk better.
Be patient with one another. Bear the burdens of those who are worn down by the cares of this world. Show Christ to one another in all your actions. When we all learn to walk well in the woods together the journey becomes sweet and pleasant.