I bumped around the corners of the kitchen, wheeling my bike through the back door and onto the deck. With my peanut butter and honey sandwich, my mini Moleskine and my riding gloves I set out on my rise-ride.
I arrived at the trailhead just before dawn. The woods, empty. Normally I’d ride in the quiet of the morning. But all week I had been listening to The Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S. Lewis. I continued listening to the audio book. After I plugged in my headphones, I tore off into the trees.
John, the main character in Lewis’s allegory, is on a journey. He hopes to find an island far to the west. But the journey winds it’s way through allegorical valleys and side-trails and rough roads and cities—all representing varying philosophical influences of the times.
I descended Hare Trail with a “Woohoo!” and some whoopdeedoos. When I started climbing again, after the creek crossing, my mind wondered.
Like John we all of us journey onward. I suppose for most of us we too seek the shining island of heaven—experiencing it now already a bit, perhaps, and still not yet. And, like John we each must confront the Spirit of the Age. We must contemplate Wisdom and make decisions: Which path will lead me to the island?
But I wonder how many of us create our own pathways—also called bushwhacking. Are bushwhacking our way through this life? What about our jobs? Do we seek to leverage our way to the top? Beat the system by manipulating it for our own success?
John’s problem was he was unconvinced in his own mind. His journey was a path to belief. But as brothers and sisters in Christ, belief is behind us really, and always before us. Our actions, the paths we take, the ones we create stretch out ever before us.
I flew down Fly Squirrel and looped back to White Tail Loop. I crossed the big stream and stood by the waterfall for a few moments. I Am the Way. The verse jumps out at me often. Yes, Christ is the way to salvation, to the island, but what does that imply regarding my business ethics? My family ethics? My political ethics?
As I loaded my bike on my Subaru my thoughts fluttered to prayer …
Jesus, help me on the trail. Strengthen me over the logs and obstacles and through the rivers and all the hard junk. Keep me on your path and forgive my bushwhacking ways.
Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.