“What I seek most in going into the wilderness is not exercise or escape, but a physical and spiritual depth of intimacy. I’m moved by nature’s power and beauty, but what sets me afire is the longing I sense there of everything else wanting to connect, the desire for an intimacy that is as alluring as it is frightening. I go to spend time alone with God…in a robust and full-bodied way. The two of us marvel at fresh deer tracks in the mud and black clouds looming over the ridge. We revel in the wildness and grieve over what isn’t wild enough. We argue over the bloody business of insects devouring each other. We fall in love all over again. We connect.” -Belden C. Lane, Backpacking with the Saints
As I read these words, I am reminded of the life that I fell in love with. The life lived on trail, in the beauty and the wholeness and the danger of being in the wilderness. The life that a whole new group of guides is about to experience.
Wednesday afternoon, Wilderness Ranch officially announced its 2015-2016 guide class. Fifteen new guides, eager and excited and equally terrified. These words are for you, new guide class. The words that were spoken to me, and the words that I wish had been spoken to me.
You are about to embark on the greatest journey of your life. You are about to meet some of the greatest people you will ever know, a group of friends who will forever change you. Two summers from now, you will not be the same. Wilderness will grow you, challenge you, push you, and better you. You will be different, somehow older and yet newer all at the same time.
Be eager to learn, eager to train, eager to experience everything around you.
Let yourself be excited and let yourself be scared and let yourself be weak and let yourself be brave. Let go of you and cling to the one who has called you. Let yourself feel and experience and cry and shout with joy.
Know that you have been chosen for this ministry. You have been prayed over and chosen unanimously by a group of people led entirely by the Holy Spirit. Do not for one second believe that you were chosen as a mistake.
You will pass the running tests. It might seem impossible now, but let me tell you, if this girl can pass those tests, so can you. Train hard, and wake up every morning with the decision to believe truth.
You are going to change lives. You are going to meet high schoolers longing for what you have. (No, they’re not longing to be guides, most high schoolers don’t want to be on trail at all.) They’re longing for intimacy with God, with their Creator. They are going to experience that with you and through you. Your Father is about to use you in unfathomable ways. Words that you never knew you had are going to come out of your mouth while holding a mountain dew, standing on the top of a 13,800 peak, and for one brief, fleeting moment, a seventeen year old kid is going to get his first glimpse of grace.
You are going to hear a great club talk from Izzy Ismert. And then you will hear it again. And again. And again. By the end of two summers, you will accidentally quote our camp director’s words as scripture.
You are not doing this on your own. You were called by God to do this, and He is working in and through and for you, every single moment you spend on trail. Do not rely on your own strength or wisdom, rely on the one who gives all strength and wisdom.
Your two summers will go by faster than you can imagine. Before you know it, you will be done. Cherish every moment of it. Cherish the blisters and the collapse at the finish line when you finally pass the two mile. Cherish the laughter and the music in the dorm lobby. Cherish the conversations with campers and the extra time spent getting your roll spice just right. Cherish the day you knock the double boil off of your whisper light and spill boiling water all over your legs, because let me promise you, you will. Cherish the 3am mornings and the brief moments you will spend at the peak, the moments when you are on top of the world. Cherish each time you can convince a camper they are literally one mile from the sun. Cherish the aching shoulders, and the tears that come with life stories, and the aches of feeling someone else’s heartbreak. Cherish the good and cherish the bad and cherish the incredibly hard. Cherish it all, and treasure every moment as exactly what it is- a precious and a powerful gift from above. Life is never going to be the same.