Lately I’ve been on a backpacking kick. Cooking on portable single-burner stoves, rehydrating food, etc. It’s something I’ve been enamored with since my youth, but lately I’ve actually been doing it.
Browsing through my RSS feeds today, I ran across this piece at Living Lutheran. You ever notice those little moments where one thing is on your mind and then it appears elsewhere? I’ve always taken those as a sign from God that I’m on a certain path and need to pay attention. Kind of like how those Amazon ads show up everywhere, but less ominous.
I was hiking in a hard rain one August afternoon with our youth backpacking contingent. We were raising money for ELCA World Hunger. Everything was soaked; you could wring out socks and fill a tall cup of water.
In the muddy path, I considered all the young faces through the years, all the asking “how much further?” and why these three-day trips matter. I thought of a curious man we once encountered in an Appalachian Trail shelter in Tennessee.
He called himself Hardwood. We discovered that everything the man owned in this life could fit in his pack. With funds depleted, Hardwood found a temporary job until he could walk some more.
It soon became clear that this curious hiker was willing to part with what little he did have, asking us more than once if we needed anything. When we awoke the next morning, he was cooking pancakes for the whole group.
I sensed in our youth a wonder about this gentle man. When we parted in opposite directions, I pondered whether four breakfast cereal choices and six salad dressing options in my cupboard at home were truly needed.
What kind of food for the soul are you consuming these days? We know about the perishable items, even if most of us are too exhausted to do much about it.
In his book, What Are People For?, author Wendell Berry wrote: “Close inspection of our countryside would reveal … sinkholes filled with broken toasters, television sets, hair dryers, microwave ovens, and toys of all kinds. The truth is that we Americans, all of us, live our lives in the midst of a ubiquitous … mess of which we are at once the victims and the perpetrators.”
Our main problem in the world today is not terrorism, drugs, violence or any daily headline. Our central challenge is spiritual.
We are born with omnivorous desire, seemingly assuaged with the perfect job and accompanying predictable possessions. It’s tempting to feed perishable food items, so to speak, to our spiritual hungers. But it doesn’t work. Never has worked.
So Jesus says, honestly and in love, “I am the bread of life. You’re looking at the person who can feed you better than anything or anyone. Sign on with me and I’ll satisfy any hunger or thirst.”
If this is true, it behooves the church to regularly examine how much time we spend with the man on a daily basis instead of farming out material desires to bogus sources that claim to satisfy and quench but never do. There are so many landfills of the landscape and the soul in this beautiful country of ours.
Amazing how these things come together sometimes.