While the last couple of weeks have been quite hectic, with tornados and all, I did find time to go hiking with my kids on two separate occasions. First, a few weeks ago, Liam and I were itching for some alone time together, so when I mentioned that I was going hiking Monday morning, he asked in his 2-year-old voice, “Can I go hiking with you, Da?” How could I resist?
Liam and I parked at the Overlook Parking Lot, and hiked about a mile up the PMT and back. He did really well for a 2-year-old, and I only had to pick him up and carry him about a half a mile back. Hiking with a 2-year-old on your shoulders is no small feat, so I got quite a workout. He and I ended our trip with a picnic. The benefit of doing this is that when I got him home, he was exhausted and slept for 2 hours!
Then, this week, on my first day off for Thanksgiving break, I took Tai, Bronwyn, and Liam with me. I have found that the best place to take a group of young kids for a hike is at the Mountain Creek Trail that encircles the camp grounds at FDR. If you start at the Trading Post parking lot and go counter-clockwise on the loop, you can hike for about half a mile, then you can circle around to a playground, up the steps on the dam, and walk by the lake. We also ended the hike with a picnic, and that always makes the kids happy.
The kingdom of heaven is like a father hiking with his children. At first, the children are extremely excited to be on the hike, noticing leaves and acorns, trees and streams. They insist on being the leaders, and the father gladly lets them blaze the trail. The father instructs them on how to follow the path, by watching where they are going, and also noticing the colored blazes on the trees to signify they are going the right way. The father carries his big walking stick with him, and encourages the children to also use walking sticks to support them along the way.
Soon into the trip, one child runs ahead and leaves the group. She finds herself too far ahead and out of the father’s eyesight. Yet, he calls to her and she stops, while the group catches up with her.
Another child takes a turn in leading and suddenly finds himself and the group off the trail. At first, he is panicked, but the father reminds him to remember what he has been taught about staying on the trail. He looks around and sees the blaze on the tree and finds the path again.
The third child likes to run on the path, but has not quite mastered the art of picking his feet up all the way. He stumbles and falls, with dirt and leaves on his elbows and knees. A few times this happens, and the child simply gets up and continues. Later in the trip, when he is more tired, he cries. The father picks him up, kisses his hands and knees, and hoists him on his shoulders.
At various points in the journey the children sometimes stray off the path. Sometimes the father allows this in order for them to discover something wonderful that is not on the path. Other times, the father guides them back with either his voice or his walking stick, because the father knows that there is danger. Even the path itself has dangers on it, yet the father allows them to walk on it. When the children are at the most tired at the end of their hike, the father encourages them to keep going, or carries them the rest of the way.
At the end of the hike is a picnic, with food packed with care and love. The water they drink quenches their thirst, and the apples and peanut butter sandwiches they eat fill their tummies. There is laughter, there is a sense of accomplishment, there is satisfaction in being in each other’s company.
How often do I find God following behind me in this way, tending to me like the father in the parable?
There is much to give thanks for this week.