The Oasis - May 26, 2021
Author: Pastor Dan Hollis
May 26, 2021
by Pastor Dan
A number of years ago, I was tasked with being the hike leader for a group of middle schoolers summiting their first 4,000-footer in the mountains of New Hampshire.
We were assigned Wildcat D, one of five peaks of the popular ski mountain. I had the map, the guidebooks, and a few years experience of hiking in the White Mountains. None of my colleagues, however, had hiked that particular mountain. A few had skied it before, but you don’t hike a mountain like that with skis under your arms. That’s why God invented chair lifts.
Of course, halfway up the bare rock scrambles that led to Wildcat E (the first subpeak), I found myself questioning the vetting process that goes into selecting guidebook authors. The kids were overwhelmed, not expecting the “trail” to be quite so steep and the drop quite so visible. More than that, Wildcat E wasn’t marked! I don’t know if that’s changed in the years since, but to this day I have no idea when we hit it. Even after the scramble of the ascent was over and we were back under trees hiking the ridgeline toward Wildcat D, it was hard to tell if that hump we just went over was the peak, or if the next one was higher still. Was it far behind us now, or still to come?
I and the two other adults on the hike with me consulted the map often, trying to boost our kids’ morale with a visible gauge of our progress, but without any viewpoints or landmarks or intersections in the one-way trail it was kind of a guessing game. “Maybe that’s the curve to the left we just went on?”
Long story short, we made it to the chair lifts. Wildcat D at last, and a well-marked summit to boot. But we came so close to turning around several times because of how much the trail had psyched out our hikers! The only thing keeping us going was blind trust in guidebooks and a map, which promised us that sooner or later deliverance would come. We had done the prep, we had our instructions, and we knew (sort of) what to expect. It was just a matter of making it there without any mile markers. In the end, the sudden reveal surprised us, and all hope and joy and light returned to the world! It was like the Sound of Music, all the kids running into the grass and spinning about and collapsing in the sunlight.
A few weeks later, on a day off, two friends of mine asked me if I’d like to join them on a hike to Wildcat A. I had never made it that far of course, but I knew part of the path pretty well. For the rest we had guidebooks, a map, and the promise of deliverance.
They’d gotten me this far.
“A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” Isaiah 40:3-5