I have not been resting lately.
I have been sleeping well at night, don’t get me wrong, in fact, I sleep more when I am stressed; I just haven’t been resting during my waking hours.
And by resting, I don’t mean napping.
I mean resting in God’s Providence. Which is why I have been on my knees several times over the last few weeks, begging God to help me to be confident in His plans. His perfect plans.
You see, my daughters, ages 19 and 21, have been hiking the Appalachian Trail ALL SUMMER LONG by themselves. Did you get that? BY THEMSELVES—meaning that they are on the trail ALONE. Without a real adult who has a history of making good and wise choices. And oh, has it been LONG (for me, and probably for them, but in a more physical way, I would guess). If you aren’t familiar with the Appalachian Trail, it is a hiking trail along the eastern US that extends from Georgia to Maine, spanning 2,200 miles. Because of time limitations, my girls are only completing the northern half of the trail (1,100 miles!). They started in Pennsylvania.
And I haven’t seen them since the third week in May.
And they are backpacking everyday.
And sleeping in a tent or AT trail shelters every night. In the wilderness.
With people they don’t know. And more disturbingly, people I don’t know.
They have climbed mountains and traversed streams and walked around rattlesnakes, of which they said, “We think it was dead”. They know me too well.
And I have been concerned about them on the mountains and in the streams and
freaking out nervous when they don’t have cell service
for three days straight, and not at all excited when they finally do get
service and they call and happily tell me they just saw a black bear and two
bear cubs, “But the bears just ran into the forest” they said. “And they were really cute.” And this of course calmed me. Because
everyone knows that cute bears are not dangerous.
I am so worried that they might get sick or get kidnapped (they told me they hitchhiked but that it was only a few times and they were very careful to only get in the car with people who looked nice. They said if the driver looked creepy, they were just going to act like they needed to answer their phone and wave them on. “Don’t worry” they said, “We’ll be fine”) or attacked or lost.
I have made myself sick with worst-case scenarios that I have played and replayed in my head. I have written news articles in my imagination about “those two poor girls from Iowa”. I have watched them fall from sheer cliffs and into rapids in my unnerving daydreams. I have imagined them scared and lonely and homesick.
But you know what? None of these things has happened. Not that it couldn’t still. But it hasn’t, and I have spent precious time stewing when they have been having the adventure of a lifetime.
And you know what else? They aren’t scared. They are joyful. And they aren’t lonely. They are building life-long friendships with other hikers they have met. And they aren’t homesick because the trail has become their home after 11 weeks. They are simply hiking and enjoying God’s beautiful creation and the simplicity of their present situation. And they have learning about God’s character and His provision.
Why haven’t I been doing that in these last 11 weeks? Why have I doubted that God is in control? And even if I have been aware of His control, why have I doubted His goodness? Why do I see myself as a better judge, a better guardian, a better story-writer of my daughter’s lives? Why do I put more confidence in a cell phone call or a satellite tracker or a photo of my smiling girls on Facebook? Why is it so very hard for me to trust that “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him” even as I continually repeat that verse to myself?
I am not resting because I am putting my hope in everything BUT God. I tell God I want to trust Him, that I don’t want to feel fearful, that I want to freak out less, and I do trust…for a minute. Then, I am back on my knees again, with tears in my eyes, wracked with fear. I am so scared that something is going to happen to my babies. So scared. So scared, that I don’t know what to do with the feelings. I SO want to be in control.
But I’m not.
And that’s good. Because God really is in control. And His plans really are good. And He really does love my daughters. Even more than I do, if that is possible. And He is watching out for them. He has protected them from harm thus far. But the truth is, if they were to be hurt or lost or worse, God would still be in control and I need to remember eternity; I know my daughters are eternally secure. I know they trust in a loving Savior. I know that nothing can remove them from God’s hands. I must repeat these truths to myself. I must value eternity more than I value my present comfort. "For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)
All of my my present and future hope needs to be in God, who created the universe with His voice; who formed these precious children within my womb. I must trust in God’s undeniable faithfulness and his promises to all of his children. I must choose to believe that His way is the right way… even if it feels really uncomfortable to me.
So, today during my sunrise walk, I got down on my knees in the dewy grass and I told God the day was His and that He could keep writing the story of my daughter’s lives. I’m sure He appreciated my permission.
And guess what? I felt peace. I felt trust. I felt free.
As a backpacker myself, I know how good it feels when the hike is done and the heavy pack is finally removed—you feel almost as if you could fly.
So, with y’all as my witnesses, I am removing my burden of fear today and laying it at the feet of Jesus.
And it feels so good to lay it down—almost as if I could fly.
There is freedom in surrender.
There is joy in trust.
There is rest in dependence on Jesus.
But I will still be very glad when they're home. I'm just like that. And God is just like He is: always faithful; always good; always teaching; always so patient with my unbelief.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” Psalm 91:1
“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers him”