As a man, I respond best by the tactile dynamic aspect of faith more than that of the passive pulpit believer. The pulpit has its place, but for me, my spiritual journey has increased through doing. Recently, I had the chance to journey with God through a trip my church calls quest. But let me back up. Like so many, I do suffer from the parent wound. Some are more innocent and some more sinister. The tiniest of wounds to our heart, if left untreated, can fester and spread. Unfortunately, when you are the one with the wound, you tend to ignore it, while those around you suffer. For years, my wife tried telling me that I had such a wound. “Everyone has wounds like that” I told myself as a way of passing off its impact. When you live with it your whole life, you don’t know any different. Sometimes, it takes a heart attack for you to realize how bad your wound is, and that is exactly what I got.
Back in August, I received a note of rebuke from my mother. The rebuke was regarding having a conversation with an estranged Aunt for which, aside from socio-economic prejudice, I had no background on why my family did not contact her or any of my father’s siblings. As a result of this conversation on facebook, my mother sent me a message of disownment. She said, “I hope you burn in hell”, and “You are dead to us.” To hear such things from the people that gave birth and raised you, no matter how healthy the relationship is, was devastating.
A month later on my birthday, I realized that according to my parents, the summation of my 36 years of life was that they wish I had never been born. Without Jesus in my life, and without the love of my wife, my kids, my in-laws, and my friends, I can only imagine the impact this would have had. But I didn’t have to. I have Abba father in my life, and my daddy loves me. I could no longer ignore the wound to my heart.
After sharing this with some people, a special trip, intended for worship team members, was made open to me. My wife, my calendar, and my finances were also all made open. I decided to simply say yes to the opportunity God made for me and to say yes all along the journey. Prior to embarking on the trip, I had a vision for what the purpose of the trip would be. I was a beaten down ship that needed some serious dry-dock time.
For the month or so building up to Quest, I was very excited. The only thing about Quest that I knew was that I was going to have lots of time with God free from distractions and that I didn’t have to make any logistic decisions during the trip, such as destination, lodging and food. While some may be anxious about the loss of control, I was nothing but excited. I trusted in God’s journey and the discernment of our leaders.
I said goodbye to my family with a heart full of hope and began my Quest. On the first day, we were taken to a forested area with some trails along the Sacramento river and dropped off on our own for a few hours. I felt that to open my heart to God, I needed to deal with the shame and guilt I had built up since last dealing with God. I prayed through these issues and resolved that when I crossed back over the bridge across the Sacramento river, I would leave the shame and guilt behind. I crossed the bridge open to what God would work in me next.
The second day began with us being told we would only have two cliff bars and a bag of nuts to eat. The food was provided because we would be doing some serious hiking that day and would need at least some calories. Our hike that day was 16 miles through volcanic sand up and down elevation. Part of this hike included a trek up a large volcanic cinder cone. The journey up was tough. For a fit person such as myself, I thought it would be no problem, but half way up, I found myself praying that only through God’s strength would I be able to make it up.
I made it to the top of the cone exhausted and elated. The view was powerful. I walked around the top thanking God for the view and asking him what he had for me. The center of the cone was collapsed to a concave bottom with a trail leading down. How cool it would be to also hike to the very bottom of the center of the cone, so away I went. Halfway down, I stopped and sat on the trail for a while. I looked to the bottom but couldn’t proceed down. At that moment, God spoke to me to say that I have been to the bottom before and don’t need to go there anymore. This trip wasn’t about going to the bottom. I looked up and saw the top of the cone and God told me that this trip was about reaching the heights.
I understood the aspects of not hitting the bottom and was all too willing to not go down, but I didn’t understand the part about reaching the heights. I didn’t press for answers as I realized that it would be revealed in time. We finished the long hike on our last bit of energy, but through the hunger and exhaustion, and through being in the dirt, I was open to God.
I awoke, battered but open and eager for the day to come. We began with a visit to an area called the devastated area, so named as it was laid wasted after a volcanic eruption 100 years earlier. Our goal was to find a rock that symbolized the devastated areas in our lives as we would be building an altar of these rocks later that day. I prayed for guidance as I walked around the area. There was a small speckled piece of granite in my path. I picked that one up as my rock as it represented the devastation in my life and my parent’s family as a result of small and petty things that build up over time. I was awestruck by the realization that this rock was blown miles away 100 years ago in a mighty explosion only for me to find it as symbolism of my own devastation.
From a distance, Pastor Jim pointed to Broke Off Mountain as our next destination. I had never hiked a mountain and have a slight fear of unprotected heights. Still operating on cliff bars and nuts alone, but with a heart hungry for God, I tackled the 3.1 mile hike to the peak, some 9,235 feet high. I had never before been so in awe of a view, and am even now touched by the experience as I type these words. I had reached the heights God had for me, and had not yet realized it. For those of the group that made it, we spent some time enjoying the peak before Pastor Jim reminded us of what we came up to the top to do.
Jim called us together and pointed to a peak lower to ours where a flat rock jutted out from the top. That was where he told us we would lay down our stones of devastation and build our altar. I was very reluctant to leave the top as I felt so at peace up so high. Several people made their way to the altar, so I decided to climb down to the lower peak. As I was walking, with my rock in hand, I was overcome with what it was exactly I was about to do. I was going to reject the devastation and choose life. I was going to reject the rejection of my natural parents and choose instead to hold my Father’s hand. Tears welled up in my eyes. Rage was in my heart. I wanted to destroy something. Then excitement and joy started to wash over me. I came up to the altar and laid my rock down and I gave the devastation over to God.
It was upon reaching the heights, the heights God told me to reach for, that I laid 36 years of wounds down. I could move to forgiveness. As I made room to grieve the pain, I expanded my capacity to love, and to be loved. I found a pile of rocks and sat for a while longer. This place and this view was special and I didn’t want to leave it. I told Pastor Bobby he might have to pry me off of the top of the mountain, but I realized I couldn’t stay up there forever. I started my journey down, lighter than I was during my journey up. I bounded one step to another singing songs of praise. I was free to love and free to hike.
After having reached the peak of Broke Off Mountain, the remainder of Quest for me was about being loved and enjoying the handiwork of my Father. God was taking me, his son, in his hand and letting me behold his wonders of creation. If I was a ship in dry-dock, the first several days were about repair, the next several days were about being painted and polished before I set out on the rest of my own journey. I was elated to see that we would be staying in a nice inn with warm comfy beds, hot showers, breakfast and campfires. I wanted to do the hard physical stuff, like kayaking and hiking through giant redwoods, but I also wanted to be rested. It was an awesome time of being comforted and I didn’t feel guilty about it one bit. I also got to know the awesome folks that were on Quest with me. We had great camaraderie around the campfire and meal table. I will never forget these folks.
My journey began with brokenness and exhaustion. I traveled through 16 miles of volcanic sand, received revelations from God, laid my devastation on the top of a mountain, and went on a walk with my Dad. It was transformation, restoration, and relaxation. Thank you Lord for your works.