One of my favorite things to do is to go hiking. I love it because it’s full of “wow” moments. Sometimes the “wow” is right at my feet, or at my fingertips. If I’ve hiked to a summit, the “wow” is the view all around and the feeling of being both tiny and immense all at once. Sometimes the “wow” is my feeling of wondering how I’ll navigate a section of trail, and then using my wits and persistence to find a way. That’s so satisfying!
You know, when we go on a hike, we start in the parking lot, at our car. And we end… in the parking lot, at our car – right back where we started. And yet, we go on a journey when we hike. Hiking changes us; it transforms us. The journey, the process of hiking somehow expands us. It puts us in deeper touch with ourselves and with the wondrous world we live in.
So for me, hiking is a spiritual practice.
And while sometimes I hike alone, often I hike with others. Hiking with others, sharing that spiritual deeping within ourselves together with others, is, to me, like what we do when we become part of this faith community; this congregation. Our spiritual paths, here, come together.
And when we go hiking together, the “wow” moments that we have are shared. All it takes is to know the “wow,” to feel it, and to look into someone else’s eyes. The words may not be there to name that feeling, but we know it, and we feel it together. And that just makes more “wow.”
What’s more, only together can we know what it’s like to have one among us who says, with courage, “I’m scared.” Or, “This is really hard. I don’t think I can do this.” Or, “Why did I even agree to join you guys today?!” And only together, can we share in a response to that fear, that doubt – and say, “I’ll help you…. I’m here…. We’ll do it together…. Can I offer you ten fingers [gesture, linking fingers together]? Do you need to stop and rest?… We can wait.”
And only together can each person’s unique gifts be shared with others. Maybe one person can identify trees or birds or rock formations. Maybe someone is especially strong and can carry an extra load. Maybe someone is particularly good at reading maps. Everyone benefits from those gifts when they are shared.
And only together can we start at the car, in the parking lot, and eventually return – after a shared journey – to the place right where we started. And, coming down the last yards of trail, as we catch sight of the car parked there, with that wonderful expansive feeling, we can look into one another’s eyes, and whoop and cheer. We’re each transformed – each a little truer and fuller than when we set out on our journey together.