By CHRIS BATES
Mount Hood and how to mess up the hike of your life
Many years ago, I literally took off into the wilderness for three days. It was something I had wanted to experience. I had a map of the trails in the Mount Hood Wilderness in north-central Oregon, the supplies that I thought were needed, and I’d let my relatives in the state know what area I would be in. Beyond that, I had not researched the area much and purposely had no specific plan.
After parking at one of the trailheads, I took off with a hopeful idea of a distance to cover during that first day. On the trail map, I saw that the Timberline Trail was about 40 miles long and completely circled the mountain. That seemed at the time like a good way to see much of the national forest. I marked my map and waypoints as I went but quickly began to be surprised by the terrain.
The hike would literally change from trudging through the humid lower rainforest to clambering over glaciers that were over half a mile across. My trek that day turned out to cover something more like three or four miles instead of a decent portion of the 40-mile trail. Exhausted, I found some flat ground close to the trail to camp for the night, which was nothing like finding a scenic overlook as I had hoped.
By the end of three days, I had only covered about half of the trail, found a more scenic camping spot only one of the nights, and was far more beaten up by the terrain and elevation changes than I’d anticipated. While it was a memorable getaway, the experience fell well short of what I’d envisioned. The lack of planning, guidance and research had left me disappointed with what I had accomplished.
It is amazing how similar some periods of my life have been to that wilderness trek. During certain times I have tried to just figure things out as I went, and although I’ve had good intentions and faith in hand, the accomplishments were similar to the shortfalls of that three-day wilderness experience. I was out there in life but did not really reach meaningful milestones or have much impact. In contrast, I can look at the years when I have been intentional and specifically directed in my spiritual walk. The outcomes have been significantly greater.
God has handed many role opportunities to each of us as men — son, brother, husband, father, worker, business leader, adventurer, church member, mentor or whatever they might be. In his book “Man Alive,” Patrick Morley explains how men are created for a program of service, and there are two ways to make your mark.
First, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) includes all things vertical, working to redeem people by connecting them with God. The second way, Morley says, is the Creation Mandate, which includes all things horizontal, where we work to redeem the world by raising families, taking on productive work and serving others around us for the greater good (“Man Alive,” pg. 168). When we as men grab onto our role opportunities and are intentional and directed, we do not wander but instead lead more impactful lives.
We need fellowship and we need a set of guidance systems — an ethos — in order to find those specific and inspired directions. An ethos is a characteristic spirit that guides our aspirations, a pathway if you will.
The systems we can plug into come in many forms and are all around us.
Church gives us a community of faith in which to live and provides many service options.
Living as highly involved and faith-guided husbands and fathers lets us work to make disciples of those most important to us.
Working in our careers as servants by what we deliver to others gives us professional purpose.
Being in small groups with other men and having spiritual mentors give us accountability and specific guidance (for instance, visit YBLJackson.org).
Prayer, studying the Word, regular devotionals, Christian podcasts and music, service work and mentorship can give us the direction that we sometimes need.
We are given an awesome example of living as discipling men in Acts 4:13, which says, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” The many people around Peter and John vividly recognized that they were directed men. Let us challenge ourselves to find that ethos by living today as if we had also just been with Jesus.
Chris is president and founder of Agora Company, a marketing, website and advertising company based in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraCompany.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.