A backpacking breakthrough

Every other year my school requires us to embark on a week-long backpacking expedition. For most of my class, the thought of a week straight of hiking—detached from all technology—is daunting. Thankfully, my experiences peaking a few “14ers” (14,000-foot mountains), as well as the wilderness expeditions I’ve participated in as part of a program for young Christian Scientists, strengthened my confidence about being in that environment.

When we arrived at headquarters at the start of the trip, we learned that our group would be breaking the school record for elevation gain and distance hiked. Immediately, the group’s anxiety was palpable, and it was at that moment that I realized I had a choice. I could either join them in feeling worried and afraid, or I could do my best to help lift everyone up. But despite my best attempts to remain a source of positivity and inspiration, after the first day my confidence started to fade, and I was also beginning to feel anxious.

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Discouraging, fearful thoughts, such as “We’ll never be able to complete this trail,” began to rush toward me, and I started feeling sick. I had a terrible headache, and my instructors immediately told me to drink more water or I would fall behind on hydrating and never catch up. This was especially important since the next day would be our most challenging day of climbing yet, so I needed to be well rested and hydrated. 

That night, as I lay in the tent with my two tent mates, I decided to think about everything I was grateful for before I fell asleep. During my trips with the program for young Christian Scientists, we’d ended our days by giving gratitude to God for the blessings we’d experienced that day and any healings we’d had. Since then, I’ve often started with gratitude as the basis for my prayers, because gratitude always helps me shift my attention to God. I’ve found that as God’s goodness completely occupies my thoughts, there’s no room for anything negative.

Lying there that night, I was filled with gratitude for seven days when all I had to do was be present and enjoy nature. I didn’t have to worry about schoolwork, tests, or anything else that usually consumes my time, but instead could experience more of the beauty of God’s creation and feel God’s presence and reality. 

As I lay in the tent with my two tent mates, I decided to think about everything I was grateful for.

The next morning when I woke up, I felt completely fine—the headache was gone, as were the worries I’d struggled with the previous day. Before we set out on our second day of hiking—with three thousand feet of elevation gain in just over a mile and a half—I decided I would pray about the day ahead. I love to pray by knowing that the course of the day is not mine to control; rather, my job is to listen for how I can serve God that day and be more aware of His goodness. 

Since our day would be filled with hiking, I also thought about the first verse of Hymn 139 from the Christian Science Hymnal. It says:

I walk with Love along the way,
And O, it is a holy day;
No more I suffer cruel fear,
I feel God’s presence with me here;
The joy that none can take away
Is mine; I walk with Love today.
(Minny M. H. Ayers,
adapt. © CSBD.)

I love this hymn, because it reminds me that no matter what the trial, God is with me. Whether I’m climbing a mountain or facing a challenging course at school, I never have to fear anything because God is always there to guide me. However, what stood out to me most was the line “The joy that none can take away is mine.” I saw that I could stand firm in the fact that the joy of this trip was God-given and always present—enabling me to bask in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and to be totally present with and attentive to my classmates, many of whom I knew very little about. And, that I didn’t have to let “cruel fear” cause me to miss out on these moments by taking away my ability to enjoy them.

Each day of the trip got better, and I saw the mental and physical barriers start to fade away.

For the rest of the week that hymn stayed with me. Each day of the trip got better, and I saw the mental and physical barriers that we thought would prevent us from finishing out the course start to fade away, as God’s guidance and comfort inevitably replaced anxiety and fear. Even on the most physically and mentally demanding days, knowing that we were walking every step with God allowed me to walk, sing, and dance through the trip with total joy. And we all finished the trip successfully—breaking the record for our school and overcoming every obstacle along the way.

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