As we hiked in the jungle to the distant community these words kept coming to my mind:
Trying to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Trying to follow our Savior and Guide.
Shaping our lives by His blessed example,
Happy, how happy, our place by His side.
As we raced through the jungle, trying to keep up with our Cacua guide, stumbling over roots, wading through streams, slogging through mud holes, balancing on log and planks, and panting up the inclines, the Lord brought to mind several spiritual lessons in relation to following a guide, and being a guide.
You see, each of us are not only following, but we are called to lead others as well. We often remind our children of the words of the song:
Somebody follows you,
Watching the things you do.
Walk in the light, and be pure in His sight,
Somebody follows you.
Our Supreme Guide left a logbook of His journey here below, and He also left a Divine Compass to show us the way to go. In addition to that, He also gives us human guides to help us along the path (and as I mentioned before, He also calls us to lead others). I think of the words of the apostle, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”
So, here are a few lessons I've learned in hiking through the jungle:
1. Be equipped like the guide—Our guide (and my companions), had rubber boots. With those boots on, they sloshed through mud holes, splashed through water, and plowed through the jungle. With just my tennis shoes on, I started out the hike by trying to stay somewhat clean and dry (I gave up). Also, my shoe laces got in the way, came untied, and were a potential hazard. Not to mention the fact, that by not having boots to tuck my pants into, my pant legs snagged on roots and stumps in the path...
Spiritual Lesson #1—Our Guide began His earthly ministry here by being baptized—both by water and by the Spirit. Should we try to walk through the “jungle” of this life without being equipped in the same manner, we are doomed to finishing our “hike” wet, muddy, smelly, and injured. In other words, with stained wedding garments.
2. Pack like the guide—This is a lesson that I learned from my last trek through the jungle. Last time, I took everything I thought I would “need.” Extra clothes, a Bible, notebooks, TP, food, medicines, etc. My guide on that trip had a tiny backpack that included a bag of ground manioc and a hammock. Needless to say, at the end of that journey, I was exhausted and had to take a couple days to recuperate (never mind that the guide also had to carry my pack a large part of the way). This time, I decided I was only taking the true necessities. Three of us packed everything into a small backpack that weighed less than 10 pounds—we made it in good time and weren't exhausted (well, not all of us anyways).
Spiritual Lesson #2—So many times I get weighed down with all the things I carry in this life—both physically and spiritually. As I think about our Guide who “had nowhere to lay His head,” and the admonishment from Scripture to “cast aside every weight, and the sin that so quickly derails us,” this lesson from the jungle hits home. As I discovered from these two different experiences: my yoke is heavy when I try to define what my necessities are via my own understanding, but when I take my guide's yoke, I find it easy and light.
3. Trust the guide—When water holes are muddy, you can't see where you are putting your feet. Having traveled this trail before, the guide never hesitated on where to walk. He confidently put his feet down in places where he knew there were boards and logs—even though you couldn't see them. Many times, if I stepped even just an inch or two to the right or to the left, my foot and ankle were quickly enveloped in icky, sticky, gooey mud before I could correct my course.
Spiritual Lesson #3—The words of the songwriter come to mind: “Although I cannot see the way, o'er life's tempestuous sea, I know that Jesus is my Friend, and that He'll pilot me.” How reassuring that our Guide “has been this way before.” As Job said, “He knoweth the path that I take...” Even when we can't see what lies hidden between the muck and mire of this life, if we walk in the footsteps of the Savior, we too can walk with confidence.
4. Stay close to the guide—As challenging as it is to keep up with a guide (they walk fast!), it's amazing how much easier it is to hike. Seeing where the guide puts his feet, the exact spots he avoids, and where he walks carefully results in a much safer and smoother journey. I noticed that whenever I stopped to tie my shoes, or when someone else got between the guide and me, I had to find my own way on the trail—which resulted in many missteps.
Spiritual Lesson #4—I've found this to be so true in my spiritual life as well. The greater the distance between the Guide and myself, the harder it is to discern where to go. Also, whenever I allow others to get between us, I find myself stumbling along in that person's wake (especially if they aren't paying close attention to the Guide). On the contrary, when I follow Him closely and don't take my eyes off of Him, the path is much clearer.
5. Following the guide “home”—At the beginning of our journey, we were vaguely informed by the captain that there had been some recent “sightings” in the village, but that things were being taken care of by local authorities. Our guide was obviously much more aware of the actual state of events than we were. However, our guide was headed “home.” He had no fear of what lay ahead, or of what he would find along the way. He led us unwaveringly into his village and promptly went to his house while some other met us to inform us of the situation.
Spiritual Lesson #5—As disconcerting and troubling as this life can be (and dangerous), we have a Guide who knows where “Home” is and is ready to conduct us to our final destination. The journey is fraught with peril and danger, but His eyes are set on the goal. I'm getting ready to head “home” after a week away from home and I think I can understand the focus and the determination of both our Cacua guide, and our heavenly Guide. Several weeks ago, when the DC 3's engine ignition lighted some fuel that had spilled on the wing during a hasty refueling prior to takeoff, we stayed on the plane because we wanted to get home (and because we didn't have a lot of options). This time, in the face of danger, our guide took us to his “home” irrespective of the potential hazards. May God grant us that kind of spiritual focus to stay the course until the end—irrespective of the obstacles and dangers!
6. Learning from the guide's attentiveness—As we were hiking rapidly back to the river, the guide suddenly stopped and said, “Look! A deer just went through here.” He bent over and pointed at two tiny little hoof prints (Colombian “deer” are about the size of a goat) in the sand beside the trail. While I was doing my level-best to keep my eyes on the trail and to make it to my destination, the guide was seeing the entire situation and picking out so many things that eluded me.
Spiritual Lesson #6—As I mentioned at the beginning, some of these lessons apply to an earthly spiritual guide as well. I thought about how those more mature in the faith often see things that are lost in the “hike” of life for a less mature believer. In addition to being challenged to appreciate the insights of those more mature than I, I was also challenged to open my own spiritual eyes and be more alert to what's going on around me so that I can help others as well.
7. Not the fittest, but a worthy guide—Our guide was not a young man, neither was he the oldest, most experienced. There were younger, stronger, and faster men that could have led us to the community, but our guide was dependable, knowledgeable, and capable—and he did his job well
Spiritual Lesson #7—While “guiding” others is a demanding and daunting task, it's a comfort to know that one doesn't have to be the fittest, the wisest, the strongest, or the most experienced in order to one's job faithfully. The Lord loves to use the weak, the despised, and the simple to accomplish His purposes and to build His kingdom.
8. Setting the pace—Having walked with quite a few indigenous men (not to mention the old grandma that hiked with us this last time), it's been made abundantly clear to me that there is no possible way that I could keep up with them if they wanted to leave me behind. Our guide did an amazing job of setting a quick pace, enough to keep us pushing, but never left us behind. Not only that, he never even indicated that we were slowing him down. He set a pace that pushed us to do our best, but didn't push us past our limits.
Spiritual Lesson #8—How humbling to again be made aware of the “wisdom of the world.” Often I'm quick to push others. Too easily I expect them to perform beyond their abilities and/or experience (and at times past my own). Many times I've been guilty of Christian's pride as he overtook and outstripped Hopeful after his safe passage through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Why am I tempted to make others aware of their inability to “keep up?” May God make me a humble and patient guide of the weak.
Praise the Lord that we had a safe and prosperous journey! We were blessed and encouraged by the young believers that we met in the community—and again touched by the needs for leadership and discipleship. I thank the Lord for the opportunity to “hike in the jungle,” and to learn a few life lessons along the way.