Today, I was getting ready to go on my weekly hike and wondered if I really wanted to go. These are the mind-games I play with myself every week before I go hiking. I love hiking, I feel great after I hike, and I even feel closer to God when I hike. Yet my mind keeps telling me it’s too hot outside, it’s too much work to go hiking, and I’ve got way too much to do in the office. But the better half of my mind won out, and I got up to the Fox Den parking lot earlier than usual.
I decided to only hike about 4 miles of the Long Leaf Loop, which took me to about mile 8 on the Pine Mountain Trail. Once I was on the trail, I was exceedingly happy. My thoughts were clear, I was making good time, and I had a sneaking suspicion that I might meet someone on the trail. I figured it would be Jesus, as I’ve been reading the novel The Shack by William P. Young for our Sunday morning adult class. I rarely ever see anyone on the trail, especially on a Monday morning. I once met one of Molly’s high school teachers on the trail in an interesting meeting. But I was in for a huge surprise today.
I was on my way back from mile marker #8 when I saw a fellow hiker about 30 yards ahead of me. He had stopped at a tree and was gazing up at it. I couldn’t quite make him out because of all the trees between us, but I rounded the corner and realized I recognized him. Not only did I recognize him, I KNEW him. Not only did I know him, he was one of my parishioner’s from St. Peter’s, Savannah! Not only that, but he was one of my youth leaders!
When we saw each other, he called out, “Jeff!” and I called out “Todd!” and we embraced. It was a happy reunion. Todd and his wife Karen were some of my best youth leaders at St. Peter’s. They taught the group that ended up going on a pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland. Todd was my roommate on that trip, which was a lot of fun. Todd works for the Georgia Historical Society, and being in Scotland with him was educational, as well. The best memory of Todd I have on that trip was when he bought some of the teenage boys plastic swords in a gift shop. The boys went around to our group “pillow-ging” (taking their pillows from their rooms and hiding them) with their plastic swords. Of course, the girls complained, and I was ultimately surprised when I found that the boys had stockpiled the pillows on my bed. We all got a good laugh out of the whole affair.
Todd and I shared our lives with one another on the trail for about 15 minutes. His wife, Karen, had been our Vacation Bible School coordinator the year we did “Fiesta!” so I had talked to her a few months ago about St. Nicholas doing the same program. So I got to hear about Todd and Karen and their daughter Kate, who is now in 6th grade. When I met them, Kate was Tai’s age!
But the serendipity of the whole occasion was rather striking. Todd happened to be in Newnan yesterday for a marker dedication at the renovated courthouse there. He decided to swing down and hike part of the PMT before he headed back to Savannah. He remarked that he was planning on getting some solitude on the trail, so when he saw someone on the trail on a Monday morning, he was more than surprised. Of all the trails, and all the days, and of all the people to meet like that! It is a small world indeed.
So once again, I’m given a reason to ignore the part of my brain that says “Don’t go hiking today!” Sometimes God has more in store for us than we might ever expect.