Thursday, February 22, 2018

Backpacking with God

“Backpacking with God”

by Peter Rengel, M.A.

In 1976, when I was a counselor in a backpacking camp in northern California’s Trinity Alps, I learned a major lesson about “asking.”  My friend Marilyn and I were leading ten teenage boys and girls through the wilderness for two weeks.  On the seventh night, we were camped in rugged mountains in unfamiliar territory.  We had not seen anyone else for days.  As we slept, a freak summer blizzard unleashed two feet of snow on us.  We huddled together through the night to stay warm.  As the sun rose, the storm was still so intense that we could barely see one foot in front of us.  All the trails had disappeared.  We could not see any of the surrounding mountains to read our maps.  We had little food because we were due to hike to a “food drop” that day.

I was scared.  No, I was quietly terrified.  I felt responsible for everyone’s safety.  If the blizzard continued, our already wet clothes and sleeping bags would no longer keep us warm.  We would either suffer from hypothermia and lose some toes and fingers or freeze to death.  I remembered the near-by location of a mountain peak we had seen the day before.  I left Marilyn with the kids and struggled through the ferocious blizzard which had dumped over three feet of snow by now.  Breathless and frozen, I finally arrived on the peak but could not see far enough to get my bearings.  I pictured those frightened kids relying upon me.

My terror intensified.  Finally, in desperation, I fell to my knees and prayed.  I begged God to please lift the storm just enough for me to see the path down the mountain.  In that moment, I fully believed that the clouds would magically disappear.  After a few minutes, nothing had happened.  I began sobbing as I pictured the newspaper headlines detailing our deaths.  I pleaded with God, but still nothing happened.  Dejected, I finally decided to return to the others and plan a new strategy.  As I was walking down from the peak, I found my feet involuntarily moving in another direction.  It was strange.  I felt like I was being led, for no apparent reason, to the back side of the mountain.  As I came around a corner, I looked below me and saw the faintest evidence of the trail.  I shouted with glee and rushed back to the others with the life-saving news.

Later I realized my picture of wanting the storm to stop almost prevented me from being able to receive the gift being offered.


          When you finally admit

          You cannot do it alone,

          Asking the Universe

          To please help you

          Lets you bow down.

          The very act of asking

          Opens you to receive.

          Then release all your ideas

          Of how the help will come,

          So you can see the support

          In whatever form it arrives.

There is generally a delay between the asking and the receiving.  This period of time tests your faith.  In the act of asking, you find the courage to set aside your arrogance, which has convinced you that you must do it alone.  You become vulnerable enough to admit, “This is beyond my control.  I cannot go on struggling.  Please help.”  And then nothing happens for a period of time.  This is when you can panic or trust.  This is when you have to combat the lurking demons in your mind that whisper in your ear, “See.  This stuff does not work.  There is nothing here but you.  So go out there and grab whatever you can.”  You must decide if you want to be controlled by those nagging voices or not.  If you give them power over you, you may become so caught up in their negativity that you do not recognize the help when it arrives.

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