To kick off the summer following my freshman year of high school, I decided to join a group of guys on an adventure. This group was led by our youth pastor (Ben) and was made up of five youth group guys (including myself). We had been talking about this for months and were ready to crush the 42 mile hike on the Tecumseh Trail. We were tough, manly men; ready for anything nature could throw at us. I even had the faintish hint of a mustache to go along with the three hairs on my chin. Our mantra was “We can do this, because we are MEN!”
Our backpacks were filled with food and supplies, enough to last us through the four day trip. To go along with the pita bread for our PB&J lunch, we had large cans of Dinty Moore soup, and boxes of Mac n’ Cheese. We had pre-cooked bacon and eggs in a carton. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could get in our way. This was going to be a cake-walk.
Confident and itching to get going, we headed out at 8 PM to get a few miles in. We figured it would take us a couple hours to go the five miles we needed to get to our campsite. So as one of the guy’s mom dropped us off, we waved goodbye and headed to face the wilderness.
We walked that night. And we walked. And we walked. Eventually we decided that the map must have been wrong. We were way past the site we were supposed to camp out. So we set up camp anyway, confident that we had already gone at least a mile into the next day’s hike.
The group awoke the next morning ready for a fantastic breakfast. As Ben cooked up the eggs from a carton, we divided out the bacon. We dug in, knowing that men needed fuel for their strength. It didn’t take us long to spit it out. The bacon was like rubber, but with less flavor. The eggs were like Styrofoam, except I actually wished I had Styrofoam to eat. It was awful!
Not to be held back, we dug out granola bars and packed up quickly, ready to put an easy 15 miles behind us. Five minutes later, we were coming across the campsite we were supposed to stop at the first night. This was the first time we had some doubt creep into our minds. Still, we drove on, because men don’t quit.
The trek went on and on that day, up and down so many hills that we lost count. Who knew Indiana had that many hills? But no one said anything. We gritted our teeth and kept on going. And then, it began to sprinkle. The sprinkle turned into a steady rain. The steady rain turned into a downpour. And as Forest Gump once said, “One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.” (My parents later told me that they were watching the weather radar and it was as if a big red storm cell just stopped right on top of us.)
With no place to go, we kept walking. After two hours of unrelenting rain and hail, it finally let up. Soaked, but not complaining, we stopped for lunch. Ben reached into his pack to grab the supplies for lunch, and pulled out a moldy bag of pita bread. We stared at it dumbfounded. What now? That was our lunch!
I looked through my bag. Everything was soaked. We had trash bags over our packs, but the rain was so heavy, it found a way in anyway. At the bottom of my pack was the remanence of a couple Mac n’ Cheese boxes that had fallen apart in the pool of water. The pasta was soaked and ruined. Another hit to morale.
Not to get down, we ate peanut butter, straight from the jar; just like men. We ate the rest of our snacks. And we continued. Still, no one complaining (though, the youngest of the group started to show signs of wilting).
After a few more hours of sludging through the flooded woods, our all-knowing leader finally stopped. We all sat down and took our shoes off. With all the water, we had developed massive blisters on our feet. Wearing a broken look on his face, Ben said “Guys, we have two options. First, we can keep going; I’m willing to do that if you want… Our second option is to man up, get to the road, and call our moms like a bunch of sissies.”
And because we were real men, we unanimously voted to call our moms. Turns out, we were all dreaming of going home, but no one wanted to say anything. So after another hour of hiking to the road, we were able to dig a phone out of the bottom of a bag and find reception to call a couple of the moms to come pick us up (thanks Leslie and Marlene!).
We were wet, weathered, and tired. We did not complete our journey. We called our moms in shame. And none of us cared; we were going home to sleep in a warm bed and eat real food! Any ridicule we would face for calling our moms would be worth it.
Unfortunately, when they dropped me off at home, it was during the middle of my parent’s small group (which met at our house). So, I had to complete the walk of shame and give an explanation to the 20 people gathered in our living room. Humiliating.
Looking back, there were two lessons I learned from this. The first was to always question Ben’s knowledge when following him into the woods. (Though we ended up having many more adventures in the woods together that went much better than this.) The second was humility. When you’re with a group of your buddies, it’s easy to be strong and confident. It’s easy to believe that you can accomplish anything, and that through your strength and will, you can overcome any simple obstacle that gets in the way. But nature is a great reminder of God’s power. The landscape and weather are two of God’s most beautiful, yet powerful creations. And when you’re out there, whether alone or with a group, it is easy for Him to humble you.
This is true in our day-to-day life also. It is easy to put faith in yourself when you’re at work, or battling addiction, or working through a crisis. But there comes a time where you will break. It’s in your nature. Humans were created to lean on God, to walk with Him. In Matthew 14, Peter goes through this same thing when he steps out of the boat and walks towards Jesus on water. Then, Peter begins to doubt and attempts to take control of the situation. He is humbled quickly.
Just like the wonderful moms that came and picked us up on that day, Jesus came and rescued Peter from drowning even after his lack of faith. God is there for us. It doesn’t matter how many times we try to do it on our own and fail, God is always willing to pick us up. That is what His love is about.
- Austin Tucker
Amateur rapper and hedgehog breeder.