I woke up in the dark this morning, which is not unusual at this time of year. Daylight hours always seem more precious right about now. I grabbed my camera – and the dog, who didn’t have to be asked twice – and headed up the mountain behind my village to the Pfannenstiel.
Walking, trekking, hiking, climbing – I don’t think the people I meet long the way are all that particular about how they describe this activity. Whatever it’s called, we do it because we love it.
We say a friendly “greutzi” to each other when we meet and keep going. I always smile too, as I say it, and the other hikers know from the toothy grin that I’m an American who has become lost on a Swiss mountain.
I know the path I’m on quite well by now and have even tried a few of the paths that seem to head off in odd directions. Remarkably, I always seem to end up again on the main path. And of course when that happens I make the obvious spiritual connection. This has been the story of my life. God has never let me wander too far off the main path.
Over the years I have collected various sayings and aphorisms about ministry from those who have practiced ministry a lot longer than I have. Early on I even put them together in a book that made a lot of money for my publisher and not nearly as much for me.
I am now beginning to do the same with hiking – collecting sayings, that is, not making money for my publisher.
“Anywhere is ‘within walking distance,’ if you’ve got the time” is one of my favorites.
I’ll never forget Yogi Berra’s line. The famous twentieth century theologian once said, “When you get to the fork in the road, take it.”
The veteran Mount Everest climber, Ed Viesturs, wisely said, “Getting to the top of the mountain is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” That one is the sort of quote that makes an amateur like me sound as though I know what I’m doing.
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” I’m not sure who first said that, but it must be something every hiker believes. For me the walk is spiritual. It’s prayer time. It’s time to think through next Sunday’s sermon. And it’s also time to get a grip on the fears and worries that always seem ready to hijack my life.
“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves,” said Sir Edmund Hillary.
And with each step I hope I am closer to the conquest.