Adele/I recently fulfilled a marriage-long dream: to ride a snowmobile through a New England forest in a snow storm. (Ok. So. We don’t all have the same kinds of dreams!).
It was fantastic…. beautiful… heavenly… cold… treacherous… thrilling and chilling at the same time. I am certain I will run out of virtual-space before I run out of real words, so let me paint a picture:
The snow was falling at 2-3 inches per hour during our 2-hour trip through the woods. The advertised “well-groomed trail” was practically invisible. Thank God we had an experienced (albeit, Red Sox fan) guide in whose tracks we tried to glide.
There were times when we rode mere inches from a 50 foot drop; up and down hills more steep than any built for a Jeep TV commercial; sweeping under low-hanging branches that could have knocked us on our keisters (if we’d been cruising faster than 15-20 mph)!
The views were indescribable – snow clinging to the drooping pines like gobs of vanilla bean ice cream dripping from Christmas-green sugar cones; bogs beautified by fresh snow caps; an ice-lake as smooth as a perfectly formed pearl; a small river with just enough ice-cold water rushing through as to remind a passerby of its actual power yet jacketed with snow-covered ice-chunks big enough to park an RV on…
Then there was the snowmobile itself – only 600 miles on it – sleek, comfortable seats – handwarmers for the driver – a back-support for the rear-rider. REALLY LOUD. Handlebars that vibrated with the rpm’s of the motor… [As you read this paragraph you might want to hear Tim ‘the Tool-Man’ Taylor grunting as background!]
We arrived at the base camp an hour early to sign the kinds of legal papers that force you to second guess whatever it is you are about to do. Then there were complex accessories to squeeze into – something that would have been embarrassing if we had been the only people trying to figure all of it out.
We were expertly trained via a 300 seconds video and a good 2-3 minutes standing around an actual snowmobile while someone turned it on, then turned it off before giving sage advice such as, “don’t tip it over or you’ll break your leg.”
We surrendered months of movies and date-nights, downsized our Christmas gift-list (sorry to you who were expecting something) and took all that I would spend on monthly baseball games during the regular season, setting it aside for this adventure. And, if I had to do it over again… I’d have put back twice so we could “do it again!!”
As we rode through the woods, my mind wandered to the similarities between this adventure and spiritual quest. In this installment of a three-part series, cleverly titled “Snowmobiling and Spiritual Formation, parts 1, 2, and 3,” I’d like to survey a few of the more-or-less standard sorts of similarities. In the next two articles I hope to focus on a couple of unexpected ah-ha’s I had with our Father.
Good equipment… in our google-research for the day we were warned to choose a service that guaranteed well-maintenanced equipment… not just for comfort (cushy seats & hand-warmers) but for safety. Makes sense!
A spiritual quest also requires good equipment – without it we will inevitably end up in a ditch! There are lots of extras available to a western-world spiritual pilgrim, but the best equipment at our disposal is the real presence of God via His Spirit, the Living and Written Word of God, and the companionship of His people, the Church. Solid, reliable!
A competent and compassionate guide… we were originally assigned one guide for over a dozen vehicles. Before starting a survey revealed 2 of us who were 1st timers, so we were given our own guide. Then after the other couple ditched their ride 4 times getting out of the parking lot, Adele/I were given a private guide!!
It’s good to be part of a group on spiritual quest – but since people are at different places on this quest it is normal, healthy and important that those with more experience invest personally in those with less. The group is the environment, but those personal relationships ignite growth. In them real transformation takes place – as Holy Spirit gives us an up-close and personal look into the lives of others. Change comes through those conversations with God and good guides.
A well-worn trail serviced by groomers – – there were signs everywhere warning us to be on the lookout for trail grooming vehicles. We didn’t see any during our ride, given the pace of the snow. But, we did see indicators of their presence before our journey and evidence of their plans for after the snow slowed.
We are told, by the writer of Hebrews, that we find ourselves on spiritual quest surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses;” people of faith who have preceded us along this way. Some of them are famous and others are known only to us. Via story – written, oral, or witnessed – they have marked a trail for us to walk in. Why not learn from them?
The camaraderie among fellow pilgrims must also be acknowledged. We suited up together, trained together, snacked together, waited together, passed and encouraged each other from time to time on the trail, and celebrated together back at base camp.
Often said, but it bears repeating: none of us should presume to travel this spiritual quest toward the ever-increasing image of Jesus, alone. We were made for community… a new community… and apart from it we are easy targets for the enemy of all God has for us.
Snowmobiling was a risk/rewards venture! Those liability papers we signed reminded us of the risks. The rewards were the views, the smiles, the thrills… the adventure. Any spiritual quest worth its salt is one filled with a similarly wonderful mix – risks as we abandon all we’ve ever known… that former way of living – and rewards that could only be described as abundant living.