Hawn State Park is just an hour drive from our church and perhaps may be one of the loveliest state parks in Missouri. I found this out first hand by going on a day hike with some of the men and boys from Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church.
We arrived at the park on a cool autumn morning last Saturday. We gathered together and after asking for God’s blessing and protection before we left the parking lot for a journey that required us to walk 6 miles horizontal and possibly another six miles vertical (or so it seemed at the time). My oldest son said our walking fellowship was “just like Lord of the Rings”.
Our path was marked out for us and it wove itself throughout a deeply wooded forest of pine and oak trees growing along sandstone bluffs and a valley carved out by the Pickle Creek. We only saw a fraction of the 4,953-acre park. Our walk lasted about 3-1/2 hours before our tired bodies made it back to enjoy a quiet lunch near the parking lot. After lunch, we held a discussion and devotion before our fellowship broke up for the return home.
I believe the Lord used that walk to reinforce some of the biblical lessons that I am so quick to forget. We began our walk with a lengthy and steep climb up one of the larger hills. The view from the top was spectacular and the beauty of the scenic panorama somehow made the ‘pain’ of the climb disappear. It is sometimes that way with Jesus. We go through a period of pain or suffering, only to ‘behold the glory’.
One time early in our walk, we found ourselves off the trail. One minute we have a clear path and the next we are up to our belts in weeds. It was only a matter of turning around to find our way back to where the trail was clear. I have found myself losing sight of Jesus from time to time and experiencing that ‘lostness’ because I left the path to walk my own way. It has always been a matter of turning around (repenting) and making my way back to the right way of life, joy and peace.
I carried a backpack with some extra water and beef jerky to snack on along the way. Before we reached the half hour mark, jackets and sweatshirts that belonged to me and my boys had to be removed and were loaded into my back pack along with a lunch pack that my youngest son no longer wanted to carry. By the time we got to the second hour of our walk, the weight of that back pack seemed to have tripled! I commented that I felt like ‘Pilgrim’ from John Bunyan’s story. By the time we got to our third hour, I was ready to just let it drop off my back and leave it. I think Bunyan’s analogy is correct, the small sins we carry do weigh us down and can cause us to think we can not finish the race that is set before us. How gracious and kind our Lord is to allow us to confess, repent and believe the gospel that He may place his yoke on us so we might find rest. How great that relief when the pack is removed! The disease (sin) and its symptoms (guilt and shame) are no match for grace!
I was amazed at the various types and sizes of mushrooms along our path. I was reminded that the living God is able to bring life out of rot and decay. The numerous butterflies we saw reminded me that transformation is not only possible, but a physical reality!
As a father of two boys, I have serious concerns for them as our culture becomes increasingly secular and permissive. The extreme permissiveness of our society claims to have few moral codes beyond "do not harm others" which of course is a lie from the pit of hell.
The apostle Paul says we are ‘living letters’ written by God. I am glad that a ministry like ‘Men to Boys’ exists because my sons need to see Jesus in other men. My sons also need to relate to and learn from their Christian peers as they begin to assume their own identity in Christ. I will not resign to live in a ‘Christian ghetto’ and develop a “we” vs. “they” mentality. My sons and I may be the only Bible some people will ever read and it is my prayer that the vision of this ministry would take root and bear fruit for this generation and those to come.