Waking up on Tuesday morning I tried to lay in bed and soak up my last moments in the comfort of sheets and a warm blanket. I knew that as soon as I moved, I would begin the first steps of embarking on a journey that I felt underprepared for. The Appalachian Trail was staring me in the face and there was no way out of it. What made it worse, I’m a fitness committee leader, and it was my job to prepare my team for this trip. In order to prepare, we (as fitness leaders) were instructed to focus on the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life. At the beginning of the year I no idea how these four things would matter, but it turns out they encompassed everything we faced.
Thirty miles with a fifty pound backpack through the mountains—being from Illinois, I just didn’t understand why we would walk down a mountain only to go right back up another one. I convinced myself early on that I wouldn’t make it. While there were some trying climbs, my body held up better than I expected. Our team created an expectation from the start of no complaining, and we stuck to that. Which leads into the intellectual experience. This was probably the toughest part. You know the saying “mind over matter”. Well in this case, I needed to lean on my body to keep my going. Everything between my ears screamed “please just give up”. That wasn’t an option. Through encouragement circles and story-telling by my group, we were able to shake off the creeping thoughts of not being able to persevere.
The emotional aspect was in a close second to being the toughest. This year we have been learning how to not let our feelings dictate our reality. Sometimes leaning on your feelings can get you caught in a rut. We would be in a very different world if Jesus didn’t go to the cross just because he did not feel like it. So my group took on that attitude and kept negative thoughts to a minimum. I was blessed by some comical team members that could always keep the moral up. Lastly, the spiritual. This part of PIES was one of my favorites on this journey simply because I had no other option outside of leaning on my faith and having truth spoken over me everyday. In addition, I was blessed with times of silence and solitude for reflecting and devotions. Every crevice that I lacked strength in was filled by God’s grace. I would consider my time on the Appalachian Trail a “spiritual peak”. In spite of how I felt, in any given moment, God’s truth, love, beauty, and grace completely surrounded me.
All in all, this was one of my favorite trips of the year. It was amazing to realize how little we actually need, yet are blessed with consistently. Through a posture of humility, patience, and flexibility, this journey, and how those four aspects of life affected it really made an impact; I wouldn’t trade it for the comfiest bed in the world.
- Alexander Walker