One month ago today, I received the best greeting in the world; two big hugs from two amazing little guys! Anne and I had just finished what for me, was a very emotional final descent. We were walking through a beautiful section of pine forest, and it just hit me... this was it... the hike was over. The mix of emotion was overwhelming. In the same instant I was both overjoyed about all that Hike4Hope accomplished, and sad that the hike was over. In the hike's ending I knew that I would be returning to a world of hustle and bustle, a world of egocentricity, a world of complexity. Spending so much time living simply and walking with God in his creation changes you. Yet as I was battling the mix of emotion that I was feeling, words from the morning's devotional struck me, and to be honest, they stung a bit as well. "Self-pity is a slimy, bottomless pit. Once you fall in, you tend to go deeper and deeper into the mire. As you slide down those slippery walls, you are well on your way to depression, and the darkness is profound. Your only hope is to look up and see the light of my presence shining down on you, reach up and grasp my hand." Those words helped me to change my focus. Yes, the amazing journey that I've been on for the better part of a year was coming to a close, but the experiences that I've had and the lessons that I've learned are there for me to share with others. Further, this journey is over, but it is only the beginning of a much larger one. There is still more to do if a cure is to be found for Nathan and Bennett, so a much better use of my energy would be to allow the momentum generated by Hike4Hope to be the catalyst for the next step. The trail will always be there, and I do intend to return to it frequently. For now, it is time for me to return to the rest of the world, to share the good news of God's glory and grace as I experienced it while on this journey. As this time of retreat ends, I must now look to use what I've learned and experienced to continue God's kingdom work in the world.
As we reached route 30, Scott called us to tell us that they were starting out to meet us. We reached Caledonia State Park, crossed a bridge and walked a couple hundred yards along the stream. We came around a bend and saw Nathan and Bennett leading a group out to greet us. Once they saw us, they took off and ran to meet us.
It was the most amazing welcome! If there was any hint of self-pity remaining in my mind, it was quickly thwarted when I saw their two smiling faces. Their joy was so contageous, the whole group was aglow with it. Anne and I greeted my family and friends who had come out to meet me, and then Nathan and Bennett led all of us into the park where a picnic lunch was waiting.
It is hard to believe that I have been home for a month. It feels like yesterday that I was out on the trail. In the time that has passed since the completion of the hike, I have had some difficulty readjusting to "normal" life. There is definitely an element of culture shock associated with returning from trail life. The first couple of weeks back, I woke each morning and took a long walk. After a month of getting up and walking, it just didn't seem right not to. I've also found that it's been a bit difficult for me to be surrounded by large groups of people. I'd gone from seeing about 12 people in a day to seeing more than that in one hour.
I am still astounded by how amazingly God blessed the hike. 9 months ago, I never would have imagined that so many people could be reached in raising awareness about Progeria. The amount of funds raised for research, completely blows my mind. I am aware, perhaps more now than ever, how amazing things can happen when we step back and allow God to do his work. The most amazing piece is that He desires to use us in the process when we allow him to do so. I think that is the type of relationship that he originally intended for us to have with him. One where we commune with him and participate in his work as stewards of the earth. We have a huge freedom to respond to God and to be held accountable for that response. I think the very nature of our relationship with God is expressed in how we respond to his call.