During my last weekend at St. Thomas, a friend and parishioner handed me a book called Hiking Through by Paul Stutzman. He told me that it might have a message for me. This past week I have been reading it, reliving my own moments on the Appalachian Trail and remembering the lessons learned through the experience. I am beginning to see that that quite a few of the things I have learned on the trail apply to living in sobriety. Here is a small story from Stutzman’s book:
Relaxing alone in my tent, I thought about the month I had spent on the trail. I’d seen and done so much, everything far removed from my previous life. I had learned to accept the friendship of others quite different from myself, and I was beginning to be happy being me, even with all my shortcomings.
Every day, it seemed that God revealed more of Himself to me. Perhaps it was because I wanted to hear. Several days before, I had been following a young man on the trail. When I was within speaking distance, I attempted a conversation with him, but was ignored. I realized he had earbuds in and was focused on his music. Everywhere these days, people are plugging their ears and depriving themselves of good conversation. That earpiece is like putting up a “Do Not Disturb” sign. This ear-plugged hiker shut out not only all conversation with fellow humans, but also all the sounds of nature. He could not hear the singing birds or the whispering pines.
Apparently he could not even hear approaching thunder. The ear-plugged young man had a hiking partner who was a short distance ahead of him. Thunder had been rumbling around us, and raindrops started to fall as we crossed a road. The unplugged hiker had heard the warning rumbles; catching sight of a country church down the road, he dashed to the refuge of its little porch. But the other hiker marched on, head down, watching the trail and concentrating only on his music. His friend stood on that dry porch, calling, but the hiker never saw his friend leave the trail and certainly did not hear his name called out. He was soaked by the rain and separated from his partner. I wonder how far he walked before he realized he was alone.
Though I watched with amusement as this little scene played out, I felt an inner nudge that said, “That’s you, you know.” And I got it. I saw myself in church on Sunday mornings, hoping to hear from God but letting so many worries and distractions clog my mind that I never could hear Him, even when He stood there calling my name. I saw the times I had knelt for a quick prayer at night and then immediately tumbled into sleep. How could God talk to a sleeping person?
Now I had finally removed everything plugging my ears and my head, and I felt willing and able to listen to God.