Sunday afternoon was a beautiful day for a hike. My wife and kids and I went out to the Bruce trail to enjoy the warm sunshine and cool breezes of a pristine May weekend. Our walk began on an old overgrown country road, remnants of the long gone farms still visible peeking through the encroaching pine trees … old apple trees in full bloom, raspberry bushes pushing up through tall grasses and old fence posts and bird houses peeking out from beyond abandoned lanes.
Soon we moved into the cool shade of the bluff’s mixed forest. The Trillium’s in bloom below and the branches full of bird song up above. What’s this? What’s that? I don’t know … take a picture and we will check the book when we get home. The little ones at times running on ahead in unbridled glee, at other times falling behind as they stooped to play with some twig or root or stone. At times the offered hands were taken, but often they were dismissed with all the force a two and a half year old can muster.
From the top of the bluff we took the Keyhole side trail. This one not long, but full of twists and turns, dropping down into crevices and scrambling back up and out again. Some still sheltered the last banks of winter’s snow in their shadowy recesses. Sometimes the path got rather narrow and dark, sometimes the footing got a little treacherous, (once I may even have taken a wrong turn) but by helping each other out we came through without incident. Then a short snack in the sunshine streaming to the bottom of one of the gullies, before squeezing through the keyhole itself and making our way back.
And as I hiked along with those I love most I couldn’t help but allegorize just a little.
For no matter how over-grown this world may become, those of us who walk together as Christ’s church can find the wholesome fruits of the faith past down from those who have gone before us. The times and the landscape may change but the gifts are still there … in the prayers, the hymns, the liturgy, and writings of the faithful … even in the midst of the growing wilderness of this modern day world.
And as we travel we may not always know what to think of everything we see. Much we see in the world around us is both strange and strangely beautiful … but is it safe? Is it good to consume? Will I regret coming into contact with it later on? There is one way to find out … check with The Book. And the more you check, the more you commit to memory, the more you will be able to discern at first glance. Oh yes, I’ve seen this before … best stay clear!
But the most moving part of the allegory came in the most difficult part of the hike. For precisely where things got the most trying they also became the most stunning. As the walls of the crevice began to close in overhead, the beauty began to unfold in unsuspected ways … in the willingness of our group to pull together and help one another, to hold on to each other and step forward in faith and wonder. Then in the midst of it all a small rock, a bright beam of sunshine and a family meal! Does the imagery get any better than this?
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the face of mine enemies …
And if that wasn’t good enough, the icing on the cake was the Keyhole itself. Stunningly beautiful … it was impassable unless you got down on your knees! There was no going home, no getting through unless you humbled yourself. And when this walk of life is over and each of us are called to take the hand of our Good Shepherd and follow Him home, isn’t that what each of us will find? This journey through the wilderness, with all it’s beauty and dangers, can only be enjoyed if it is undertaken humbly, and with the help of those whom God has gifted us with … most especially His Son Jesus, and His bride the Church.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.