Weekly Message from T. J.

There You Are

“I don’t like hiking”

I made this admission once to about 500 people at the church in Portland one Sunday morning. The gasps were audible. I think one person hissed. This is the congregation that counted Cheryl Strayed as a member, the author of Wild, one of the most famous memoirs about hiking ever written, so I knew I was playing with fire when I said it. But I didn’t care. I find that speaking my truth when I must saves me and those around me a lot more grief than staying quiet.

A friend of mine loves to hike. He’s new on the island and spends hours daily trudging the paths forged by so many on the trails that dip and surge through the beautiful growth of this magnificent place. And though I’ve explained a few times that “I don’t like hiking,” he persists and invites me from time to time to hike. And over the break, I confess, I relented. I was convinced to undertake the adventure because at the end of the hike through modest terrain was a secluded beach with cool, brackish water where the ocean meets a stream.

Now, anyone who has read many of these reflections knows that from time to time I do hike. Usually a friend is going and I want to spend time with them. Or there is a beach or snorkel spot at the end of the path. And since this was in that category, I went for it. The hike out to the beach was lovely. And the time at the beach itself was stunning. We explored the lava walls and the strange leavings of some military post. The dogs other beachgoers had brought bayed as their humans went into the water without them, crying in dog “Here we are!” It was picturesque. Then we hiked back.

Over the same terrain, and through the jungle mist we careened along the path in a way I don’t normally walk. The purpose my friend had in walking drove him faster and faster. At times I simply kept to my own pace, allowing him ahead. But in guilt or a hope of comradeship he would trail back with me…and then accelerate again. I tried to find a happy medium, but I could feel myself moving faster than I wanted to. And when I tried to scale gingerly over some rocks in the path, I tumbled and sprawled.

Bandages do well for cuts—not so well for egos. In muddy, bloody glory I kept my own pace back to the car…alone. My friend decided to hang back and meditate. I pressed on and wondered, “Do I like hiking?” And the gasps of my conscience and the hiss of my spirit faded a bit at the crisp, clarifying pain. The frozen rills of lava marked in spirals of moss shone forth the ancient swirl that lay unseen for millennia saying, “Here we are.” And as my friend gently applied the bandages to my hands with the care of a concerned brother he said, “There you are.” And as far as we went, in that moment I was home.

Many blessings, my friends. It is good to be home.
Rev. T. J.

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