2014-07-17 10.45.58Dean Kuest – Glendale Campus Pastor

In the summer of 2000, I read a book that has profoundly impacted my family entitled, “Built to Last”, by Jim Collins. In that book, he talks about the concept of creating BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for your company. My wife and I began talking about BHAG’s for our family and it was in those conversations that we decided that we wanted to backpack the 93 miles of the Wonderland Trail that encircles Mount Rainier. That simple decision has led our family to some amazing summer trips of carrying all that we need on our backs and heading into the unknown wilderness.

I want to emphasize the word “unknown” here because when you take those first steps onto the trail, you really don’t know what is ahead to greet you. However, when you have spent months planning, and finally have everything loaded and you strap that backpack on, there is no turning back…even when everything inside of you desires a way out.

I just got off the trail this week as we hiked a thirty mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. My wife and I have friends from our church planting days in Seattle who wanted to make their first backpacking trip. They wanted someone experienced to help them through the process (plus we like spending time together – a key ingredient when backpacking). They had spent an incredible amount of time pouring over the maps and planning the food and getting the gear ready, but there was still the unknown.

The unknown met us in several ways, the first of which was a bout of altitude sickness that left one of our friends up sick the entire first night. When the morning sun finally broke on our tents, we had to make a decision. Our friend’s response? “No turning back.” We didn’t and she had no more issues for the rest of the trip, until…the unknown struck again and again and again.

That is the fun and the fear of backpacking. The unknown came to us as a stunning view of Washington State’s three highest peaks; (Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier) all from one vantage point. It is one of those moments that make all of the hard work worth it. The unknown also came in the form of a steaming, fresh dollop of bear scat right in the middle of our trail, stirring up latent fears that all of us have buried somewhere in our suburban comfort zone. The unknown was a backpack hip belt whose support bindings snapped, a knee that started to lock up on a downhill trek, blistered feet, and snow that covered our path and provided some tricky maneuvering as we fell into air pockets underneath its melting streams. When you are backpacking, each unknown must be met with the same refrain. “No turning back.”

Here is a question for all of us. Do you ever force yourself to face the unknown in your spiritual life? When was the last time that you did something that was way out of your spiritual comfort zone? Maybe joining a Life Group seems incredibly daunting to you because you’ve never been a part of something like that before…head into the unknown. Perhaps you need to be leading a Life Group, but have always had a good excuse why you can’t…God will meet you in the unknown. Too often we associate the unknown with our fears, but what I have discovered is that every trip into the unknown I have ever taken, whether physically or spiritually, has led to great stories, greater confidence and deeper relationships that I would have ever experienced in my perceived understanding of safety. We experience all of this when we do not turn around and leave when it gets uncomfortable.

Is this talking to you?  If so, share with someone today about a spiritual trek you need to take into the unknown?

P.S. We never met the originator of that post-meal blessing left on our trail, but I was actually hoping that we would. It could have been another great story in my trip into the unknown.

The Great Unknown

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