“There is something else I am after, out here in the wild. I am searching for an even more elusive prey… something that can only be found through the help of wilderness. I am looking for my heart.“ John Eldredge
It’s a rite of passage. A journey each Narrow Gate student takes: hiking the Appalachian Trail. Whether you came to the Lodge wearing hiking boots or Vans, you will spend 7-10 days hiking through the woods, valleys, and mountaintops of Middle Tennessee’s portion of that iconic trail.
Now, it wouldn’t be Narrow Gate if we didn’t ask “why?” What purpose does it serve to pack all our students into a 15 -passenger van loaded down with Kelty packs and dehydrated fruit and sleeping bags and send them out into the wilderness? Is it a metaphor for life or just an excuse for some male bonding time? Again, as we say at Narrow Gate, both and.
This trip is definitely a time for our guys to bond and goof off and give each other annoying nicknames and cement friendships over sharing Clif Bars and huddling under trail shelters in the pouring rain. The stories that come out of each of these trips range from legendary to hilarious and no one trip is exactly like the last. The most unlikely students end up getting lost, while others you thought might be the most resistant to the experience never whisper even a peep of complaint.
But it’s more than just a good time or a great way to create memories. It’s also sacred ground.
These trips often bring our students face to face with less than ideal conditions and physically exhaustive days, and it’s in these moments that, like John Eldredge said, you find your heart. Growth doesn’t happen without the rain, and this trip is time for our students to be faced with both valleys and mountaintops (literally), hard days and incredible beauty, and persevere through it all.
Quite a few of the young men who face this physical challenge probably would never have chosen to hike the Appalachian Trail on their own. This experience puts them completely and firmly outside their comfort zone and THAT is where growth can happen. THAT is where they must rely on the strength of God, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and trust the leadership of their trail guide. And for those students who are accustomed to physical activities such as this, the trip tests their heart and patience with those who are weaker and slower. In the end, each student is shown that he is capable of so much more than he thought possible.
And there we have it: the “why.” Why spend nights under the stars shoulder-to-shoulder with fifteen other guys? Because it reminds us that we were created for much more than the comfort zone we naturally gravitate towards. Because friendships are forged in discomfort. And because no matter how much we do or don’t know about something, there is always room to grow.
So go. Find your own adventure. Ask God how He wants to grow you, where you have become too comfortable. And see where He leads your heart.