Our slogan at AUMC is “Taking Steps Toward Jesus Together.” And in thinking about this slogan I begun to focus on the word “steps”. What does it mean to take steps toward something?
Well, one thing it can mean is that you have set aside time to progress toward a specific goal. If you are taking steps toward a degree you are setting aside a significant portion of your time, your finances and your energy and are committing yourself to an academic discipline until you have earned that pretty piece of paper. This approach, these steps. could be considered linear. You start pursuing the degree and don’t stop until it is attained. Ideally, of course.
Another thing it can mean is that you are in the midst of an ongoing process. If you are going through the steps necessary to learn to play a new instrument, this is a continual process where, once you have mastered, let’s say an E-chord, you only move on to master more and more. You are never truly finished with the steps required to become and remain a master guitar player. But there is a similarity between this process and the 1st one I mentioned; both of them have a concrete goal, with very visible signals of completion and progress.
I think there is still another meaning. One in which there is not necessarily a goal. One in which there is no real, discernible marks of progress or success but instead the “goal” is simply to be. This led me to the definition of the word, “hike”. Hiking is one of the few activities in life where the process, the journey itself is the goal. If you finish a particular trail to quickly you have, in a sense, actually failed at that hike because you now have to find another path, another trail, another hike to do in order to continue hiking; in order to be on a hike. The essence of a hike, in fact its very definition, is to remain in the wilderness, walking a long path with many steps.
Faith in Christ is similar to a hike, and this is an easy comparison to make. We could say that faith is like a hike because there are ups and downs, and the footing is not always secure or concrete; faith, in fact, takes faith. We could also say that faith is like a hike because you have to consider everything you will need; you have to count the cost, before you set out on the hike, you need to be prepared to have faith in God, and lean on that faith when the sun doesn’t come out, or is shining too brightly.
But these aren’t the conclusions that I want to draw from saying that faith is a hike. I want to focus on the fact that just like a hike, with ups and downs, with unpredictable weather, the point, the definitive factor, of a hike is to be hiking. This is also true with faith. Faith in Christ, while like a race in that it has an eventual end, is a process and journey which only works if you remain in it, continuously determined to carry on. So regardless of the day you wake up with, faith is not an action, not a task, but is instead the reality of your relationship with God, it is the state you are in in being on the hike with God.
Faith, just like a hike, IS the journey that you are on and regardless of what you do with your day, whether its getting to higher ground because of oncoming rain, whether its cutting down a tree to make a shelter, whether its simply sitting and resting in the sun, All of these things are little aspects of the journey of a hike. So keep the faith, run the race, but do so in a way that is not concerned with that finish line. Live your faith in a way that your relationship with God, your openness to him and communication with him, is a given reality of that state you are in, while you hike through the wilderness of life.
Keep on hiking.