I parked the car, slipped a ratty daypack over my shoulder, took a deep breath, and headed out on my first Sabbath hike to Rice Canyon near my home north of Los Angeles. I had discovered the principle of the Sabbath hike in a book by Eugene Peterson (“Working the Angles”) a couple of weeks earlier. The idea caught my imagination – something had to change in my frazzled life, and I was determined to give it a try.
That was October 29, 2011, exactly three years ago. I had no idea that the pursuit of regular, intentional, contemplative Christ-centered rest would become such a significant part of my life. I had no clue that my wife and I would approach that pursuit in such different ways – mine is physically challenging, hers is physically relaxing – and that we would both be enriched by it in ways that exceeded our hopes.
On this third anniversary of our discovery of the benefits of rest, I’ve decided to write a letter to the Mike who set off on that hike. If you choose to join us in that pursuit, I hope the advice will be helpful to you. So with a tip of the hat to country artist Brad Paisley (whose 2007 song “Letter to Me” spent four weeks at the top of the charts), here goes:
This is a really big day, one that will change your life in ways that you can’t yet imagine. You’re going to be VERY glad that you started this!
Let me give you just a taste of what’s in store for you, along with some advice –
- Get ready to come to know God in ways that have been pretty much theoretical up to now. That shouldn’t surprise you, because spending long chunks of time in someone’s presence inevitably deepens the relationship. But still, you will be surprised – very pleasantly surprised – at how spiritually significant these restful walks with God will become.
- Be prepared for the challenge of the routine. Anything can become “same old, same old,” and there will be times where you’ll need to push through those moments. Push. It’s worth it.
- Put a knife in your teeth and protect your moments of rest. Plan them in your calendar – they won’t happen by accident. Refuse appointments that would threaten them. Be tenacious. Some people will get it. Some won’t. Who cares?
- You’re going to lose over 30 pounds, and then gain back about ten of them (you’re working on that). Don’t get fixated on the health benefits – that’s not what this is about. But enjoy them anyway.
For years you’ve been serving the Jesus who said “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” You’ve always seen that as a future promise, and it is – but as you learn how to unwrap His gift of rest, you’ll see its impact in the present as well. You will, in Him, find rest for your soul. He meant what He said, and He is true to His word.
I can tell you with confidence that you will enjoy that gift of regular soul rest for at least three years. And you will plan to enjoy it for much, much longer.
Have a good hike. There are lots of amazing moments on the trail ahead of you. You have no idea.”
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