I woke up this past Tuesday not knowing how I would spend a day of prayer and recreation. My congregation has asked me to take such a day each month for spiritual renewal. As I filled up the gas tank of my truck and perused the map of Georgia, "Cloudland Canyon" came into view. I had visited this state park once as a child on a family picnic and again during my teenage years. "Ahh, the perfect place," I thought, to reconnect with God's creation and read some long neglected books.
When I arrived at the park office, I inquired about the hiking trails around the canyon. The ranger informed me of their prize trail called the West Rim Trail...a four-plus mile path she described as "moderately difficult to strenuous." "Perfect," I decided, despite the fact I had not prepared for a hike and was wearing sandals. So I purchased a bottle of water, emptied my back-pack of everything unnecessary, and set-off through the woods.
The morning was perfect. Cool breezes, warm sun, quiet solitude. I reached an area after a couple of miles where large rocks rested at the edge of the canyon. I sat down beneath a shade tree, pulled out a book on prayer, and listened as I read. A cardinal flew from tree to tree above me. A small bird of yellow hue called to a mate with loud squeaks. A hawk soared on the wind in the canyon beneath me. The views were breathtaking.
The afternoon was not so perfect. No more cool breezes, hot sun, steep trail, empty water bottle, soar feet. The last few miles were painful. Each step making me question my sanity for having ignored the fact that my hiking boots were in the closet at home. Upon reaching the parking area, my feet were so sore that I had to sit on a bench and rest before walking the final 50 yards to my truck.
Along the trail, a passage I had read from a book on prayer hovered in my mind: "When we pray, 'Give us this day our daily bread,' we are, in a measure, shutting tomorrow out of our prayer. We do not live for tomorrow, but for today. We do not look for tomorrow's grace or tomorrow's bread. Those who live in the present thrive best and get the most out of life. Those who pray best pray for today's not tomorrow's needs. Our prayer for tomorrow's needs may be unnecessary because they do not exist at all!"*
As I walked the trail, God was whispering to my heart that I need to find joy in the journey. I tend to focus too much on the destination and overlook the surprises and the grace that are along the trail of life. I worry about tomorrow when tomorrow isn't even a guarantee.
How about you? Do you find joy in each day's journey? Is your focus on God's goodness in the present or on the worries of tomorrow?
*The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds