Temptation in the Wilderness

Temptation in the Wilderness

I was asked to speak to a group of seminarians at Columbia Theological Seminary the other day, the kind of young people who take their religion and their scripture seriously. I let them know that I am no scholar but that I do have a major thought gleaned from more than 50 years of wilderness adventure: Creation is close to the top of God’s greatest gifts. In THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story, Doug, a thoughtful young man of faith, ponders the similarity between a thru-hike and the temptation of Christ. He writes in a shelter register: “This trip is tantamount to Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness, although he surely had a much rougher time of it. Aside from having all the equipment, food and clothing we need, we also have companions to nurture our spirits. Plus, we don’t have Satan tempting us with all manner of easy ways to go wrong. Or maybe we do. There is temptation out here to resist doing small tasks to support others in need, to make unkind remarks no matter how small or subtle, to allow fatigue to get in the way when you have a chance to give useful trail intelligence to an inquiring SOBO, and to just generally go clueless when you have a chance to improve a fellow traveler’s trek. Heat, dehydration, hunger and general trail fatigue obstruct my natural inclination to serve strangers. I pledge to do better.”

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