Have you ever been in a situation where you didn't know how in the world you would get out of it? Well, this summer I had one of those.
Another couple and I, along with their teenage son, decided to go on what was supposed to be a fairly short and leisurely hike.
My husband dropped us off at the path, and planned on meeting us an hour later on the other side. I had one small bottle of water, my partially charged cell phone, and far from the sturdiest of shoes.
We continued on our way until we were far from any recognizable trail. We began to bushwhack, our legs burning from the poisonous plants. By the time we went another mile or so at a steep incline, I didn't think I could take another step. There was no end in sight, and I was seriously doubting if we were even headed in the right direction.
We were out of water. We were out of food
We were out of water. We were out of food. We barely had any battery left on the cell phone, and had no idea where we were, other than lost in the Vermont National Forest. If we continued uphill, the cell signal would be stronger (until the battery completely died). Yet uphill was quite strenuous, and likely we had miles to go until we would hit a road or some form of civilization. Heading back down was physically easier, but if we couldn't find our initial path, we wouldn't have the energy to make it back up.
I really began to worry when the most confident of our group placed a call in which he described who we were, what we were wearing and where we set off on the hike. He said, if we weren't back in a few hours, to make sure a rescue team came for us.
We decided to head back down the mountain. We knew the risks, but felt it was the best bet. Fortunately, we did not get diverted, and eventually made our way back to the original dirt road, where my husband was patiently waiting with many cold bottles of water in the car.
While I had decided I would not be hiking for some time, when another opportunity came up to hike to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Vermont, I had a hard time saying no. But this time we were hiking with my brother-in-law, a very experienced hiker who had previously done this hike. And we would be on a trail. A real one. With markings along the way.
The hike went off without a glitch, and we enjoyed every minute of the process. After the hike I realized that in total, this hike hadn't been that much longer than the hike when we got lost. This hike also had extensive uphill sections and was fairly challenging, and yet it felt entirely different.
Comparing my two experiences, the reason became clear. When we were lost, and had no idea where we were heading or where we would end up, every step was difficult because a step in the wrong direction meant two more to rectify. And when you are not sure where you are going, it is impossible to enjoy or appreciate where you are. You can't admire the beauty when all you can think about is how you are lost.
My two hike experiences became a great parable for my life.
I am often asked if I lead a Torah-observant lifestyle because I think it will ensure that I have a life of blessings. People often assume that I keep the rules as a guarantee that I will be kept from trouble. But in truth, it has nothing to do with that.
Does that mean it will be an easy climb? Not in the least
Living life according to the Torah in no way means that you aren't going to have difficulties, challenges, or even tragedies. But for me it means being on the right track, knowing where I am headed, and knowing what my final destination is. Does that mean it will be an easy climb? Not in the least. Does it mean I won't slip or fall? No promises whatsoever. But it means there is a roadmap with signs along the trail letting me know I am on the right path and heading the right way.
Just knowing that I am on the trail means that I am not just hiking for the destination, but can enjoy the journey along the way. I can stop and smell the flowers (literally), and take pictures of the amazing view. My legs will still ache from the steep incline, and the bug bites will burn just as much, but knowing I am not alone, that I am never alone, makes all the difference.
I follow the Torah not because I think it provides me a shortcut or a free pass from the challenges in life. I follow it because I believe, with all my heart and soul, that it is my GPS, and will redirect me when I get lost, and will help get me to where I need to go, even if my journey ends up being long and hard.
And, funny enough, while others often see my decision to live life this way as a way out of making my own decisions, I see it as the road less traveled by. One I have most definitely chosen. And one that, for me, has made all the difference.
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