I love interstates. You can just hop on them and go. You can get from one end of our nation to the other, from Portland, Maine to San Fran, CA in forty-eight hours. Forty-four hours if there is no traffic. Thinking back to U.S. history, how long did it take Lewis and Clark to navigate this nation? I mean LaSalle, the mighty French explore who was the first European to sail down the Mississippi, probably took longer to pack than it would take us to drive to anywhere in the US and back again.
And as I huffed and puffed and hiked over a single mountain in Colorado two weeks ago, I realized how hard it was to walk the Rockies and how much easier it would have been to just hop in a car and drive through them. Truly, the same stunning views that can be had after an 11 mile, 8 hour trek can also arguably be had over a 30 minute car ride. There were cutbacks and snow packs and obstacles and hazards. There were a few times the trail got lost and then would emerge again. I had to go around pools of water and boulders and at least one snake in the middle of the path.
On a trail, everything conforms to the landscape around it. A trail flows the way it does to get the walker through safely and with the energy to keep going. That is why paths winds sometimes back and forth many many times to get you up the mountain. While the most direct path up the mountain may be to power straight up, skipping the switchbacks leads to only more exhaustion and brokenness. The trail isn’t instant gratification but it pays heed to the obstacles of the land and it respects the limits of the hiker.
Sometimes, I think we want our faith to be like the interstate system. We pick where we want to go and just try to fly in that direction. Can we have the faith that we want in 48 hours, 44 if there is no traffic? And so we power in the direction we want to go. We see someone with unshakable faith at the top of the mountain and we gun straight up for it, only to be disappointed when our bodies wear out. But that isn’t how faith works. It takes time. It has to grow. It is a wandering path and it takes work. The Spirit is with you giving you the breath to do it, but it is also a lifetime journey of walking; no shortcuts about it.