During the lockdown period, I have rediscovered my passion for hiking. I have always loved walking in the wilderness, but with a young family at home, the last few years have meant avoiding walking at all costs. While family hikes always start out well, they religiously descend into something that looks like me having one kid on my back, one on my front and my poor wife burdened down with the weight of both of our backpacks. I know that many of you men know the drill. Thankfully, the lockdown has afforded me the opportunity to get back on the trails, and I am excited to have rediscovered my passion for pounding the paths.
Recently I was doing a little reading in preparation for a hiking trip I am planning to take when this is all over. I came across a note in the column of the guidebook that really grabbed my attention. It was called “Tips for the trail.” The note asked the question, “What is the worst thing to bring on a backpacking trip? The answer…Blue Jeans!” This gave me such a laugh.
I remembered back to my college days. The course I was studying was called Sports Management and involved a six-month elective called Mountain Pursuits. For six months, my classmates and I would leave campus and go to the mountains once a week to do our accreditations in kayaking, hiking, mountain survival, abseiling, “Canadian” (I am from Northern Ireland) canoeing and camping. It was an amazing program. Our leaders were expert outdoorsmen, and they mentored us in every area of mountain life. Apart from bears- we didn’t have any bears! Now I’m terrified of the mountains.
The reason I am telling you this is because every week one of my classmates would show up in jeans! He was a city boy, a soccer player, and he didn’t have the luxury of having a closet filled with outdoor-related clothing. ‘J’ would show up in jeans and with his lunch in a plastic bag from the convenience store. We headed into the mountains for the day, with our waterproofs, our padded backpacks, hiking boots and named brand outdoor gear on display everywhere- with my classmate in his blue jeans, a bomber jacket, white Nike Cortez and his portable CD player! This was a long time ago.
Anyways, what always amazed me is that even though he had none of the gear, he crushed it. Whether hiking, climbing, or camping, his ability to adapt and to succeed was incredible. Lots of us had all the gear but no idea! J had none of the gear, but it didn’t seem to cross his mind. He just got on with it. I remember being in awe of him. His sense of identity was so established. He stuck out like a sore thumb, and yet it didn’t phase him. At lunch, everyone would take out dried out meal packs and boil water over the fire, and J would take out a packet of crisps (chips), and munch on them with a couple of buns from the bakery at Walmart.
J’s silly blue jean story always makes me think about following Jesus. There was a simplicity and beauty to his approach to mountain pursuits. No special equipment, just a guy, the way he was, going on a journey. No dressing up, no showing off, no display of resources, just a pair of blue jeans. It reminds me a lot of my early days as a Jesus follower. It was just Steven- later I became Steve- like Saul and Paul! But it was just me. Then quickly it was me plus dressing up nice on Sundays, then sprinkle on a little moralistic therapeutic deism, and before you know it- I have all the gear but no idea. Then comes Bibleman Steve, Preacherman Steve, Leader Steve, Pastor Steve. Sometimes I long to just go for a hike with my blue jeans and a packet of crisps and a couple of buns!
What is the point of this story? Maybe something like this- you don’t need to have arrived before you take the journey. Just start walking. I really believe this is what Jesus had in mind when he called those first disciples to follow him and again when he sent them out in their pairs. We don’t need all the gear, all the stuff, or all the expertise, just a crazy openness to the experience and radical trust in the One that invites us to join him on the adventure.
Something to think about:
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So, they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:8-11, NIV
One final thought or question for reflection: What equipment did these young fishermen bring with them to help them in this new career path? Just their version of blue jeans!