My junior year in college I signed up to take my fall semester at Honey Rock, a camp Wheaton runs in Northern Wisconsin. Our first day in the Northwoods began with an “orientation hike,” and I had no idea that this hike would not only orient me to the semester but to my whole life.
As the hike was about to begin, we were told to divide up our lunch and grab one of the backpacks prepared for us. I watched as the others strained to pick up their surprisingly heavy packs and wondered aloud what they were carrying. Naturally, I decided to have a peek at my pack’s contents before picking it up, and peeling back the top flap revealed a backpack full of fist-sized rocks. Before we could begin a mutiny, one of our leaders began the hike and asked us to share with someone one thing that we were sacrificing to spend our fall semesters at Honey Rock.
After walking about a mile, we stopped. We each took out a stone and named it the thing we were sacrificing and built a monument to our sacrifices on the side of the trail. We then resumed our hike sharing with another student another sacrifice we were making. We repeated this process a couple more times before someone commented on the combined weight of our seventeen stone monuments. Her observation led me to consider the burden that weight lays on the body of Christ.
When we continued our walk, I found myself suddenly overtaken by the beauty of the forest. I love the woods, so I was surprised that it took nearly three miles before I noticed my surroundings. I realized that this was the first time I had looked up. The weight of my stones kept me hunched over in an effort to keep the weight off my lower back. My burden prevented me from viewing the beauty around me, but after unloading a few rocks, I was once again free to view the world in which I walked.
How often in life do we find ourselves bent over by the weight of unnecessary burdens, watching our feet and hoping to just get through the day? But when we give those burdens to God, we begin to see the world around us. We find ourselves amazed at the blessings, the beauty and all that God is doing around us that we missed before.
This simple “orientation hike” taught me that there are lessons to be learned in every day life. The sunset shows that God loves beauty. The migration of geese demonstrates that together we accomplish more than the sum of our individual works, and the kind word from a stranger in a difficult day teaches me about God’s love and comfort. I often tell people that at Honey Rock I learned how to learn.
My time at Honey Rock was the beginning of my understanding that choosing to follow Jesus means being open to his active and teaching presence in every moment of every day. If we are going to BE disciples – rather than simply practicing discipleship – we must begin to see that every moment of our day is filled with opportunities to learn from our teacher.