Hiking by faith isn’t easy at first. We are told to leave ourselves behind when we take up our cross, but leaving ourselves behind means trusting in the unseen. Its easy to say becoming Christian is like the lightning, but for some of us its like the approach of the summer storm. The lightning doesn’t have to strike because we’d been enveloped by the storm before we realized it.
So it was for me. I was born with structural problems and had an abusive father. I was a broken man well before manhood, and food became my drug. I was over 400 pounds and socially isolated when a trip to the hospital in December 2005 caused me to realize I could change. In a year and a half I lost 160 pounds and changed from potato to potential. I still work on developing that potential today.
A person who loses in body weight the equivalent of a whole through-hiker thinks he can do anything. Unfortunately for a long time I thought the weight loss was solely my accomplishment. Even though I was a Christian, I didn’t always give credit to He who deserved it. I thought I hiked alone, but I never was. There was always someone – one Someone – with me. He was even with me when I denied or ignored Him, back when I was hiding my 400 pound self away. As I matured I came to understand and give credit to Whom it was deserved.
The highlight of my hiking experiences has been climbing an overlook in Pine Creek Gorge called the Raven’s Horn. The outcropping is a stop on the Golden Eagle Trail, a ten mile loop hike. At the moment the ten miles was beyond my abilities, but the Raven’s Horn was a grasp away. One morning in August 2013 I met a stranger from a Facebook group, a pastor who wanted to see me succeed. I struggled from the first, but with the help of Chris and faith I got up the hill. Pastor Chris isn’t just a man of faith and a hiker, but he’s also a skilled photographer. Once I stood on the small rock platform and gazed open-jawed at the gorges cut by Pine Creek and Wolf Run, Pastor Chris captured the day in an image. I’ve added to the photo my mantra, the phrase I’ve reminded myself of as I’ve struggled up hills and over waterfalls, down grades and through snow. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one illustrates the nine in Philippians 4:13.
– Neil Brennen