“This is not normal” I thought to myself as I gasped for breath. With sweat dripping into my eyes, my chest heaving, I was trying to decide if I was going to puke or pass out. Choosing neither, I rolled my bike to a stop and assumed a new yoga position I dubbed “middle aged man sucking wind”…
I had just finished climbing the hardest portion of the 2 hour road bike climb, a 1 mile 20% grade gut buster at 9,000ft of altitude. As I rolled to a stop I was glad no one was in the parking lot to see my current condition. My mind quickly went from, “why am I doing this” to “I am glad I did this”.
Why was I punishing myself like this? The short answer is because I felt called to, the long answer may be a bit more complicated.
Almost 20 years ago I was an onsite counselor at Columbine the day of the shooting. I will spare you the details, but it is safe to say I left the school that night with some spiritual questions. Where was God? Why did this happen? Why did my words not comfort anyone? Where is God when these horrible violations happen?” I had just about every question you can think of go through my mind. Mostly though I was just sad, hurt and I felt alone. I didn’t know it then but I would eventually slip down the dark hole of grief, stress, and spiritual confusion that pleuges many caregivers.
Over the past 19 years I have made peace with my part in this global tragedy. I still have questions, I still grieve, sometimes I still get nightmares but for the most part I have found a peace about what happened. It was not easy, it took decades, and to be honest was extremely hard. But peace seemed to come.
Next year, April 20th2019 we will be the 20th anniversary of that sad day. It is a day that has loomed on my calendar for over 10 years. It is hard for me to express the mixed feelings I have about the anniversary. Part of me celebrates the milestone, part of me curses it, and all of me is amazed I have made it to the 20-year mark still a Christ follower. Sometimes I wonder if it was even real.
What is undeniable, is the power and influence that spiritual journey through nature has played in my story. Hours spent praying, processing my feelings, and confessing my loss of hope to God while riding my bike, hiking through the woods, riding motorcycles in the desert, or camping with my family and friends are the sole reason I am still a Christ follower. I would go to the woods incomplete, hurt, and hopeless and would return assured of Gods plan for my life. God used nature to save my life, heal my pain and speak truth to me.
That is why I was pushing myself so hard on that bike climb. It is also why on Saturday, July 29thI will be riding my mountain bike across the Rocky Mountains on the Colorado Trail from Columbine High School to Durango on the other side of the state. I expect this journey to take between 11-16 days as it covers over 550 miles of trails has 75,000 feet of climbing, and goes to a high point of 13,270ft.
I am calling this journey #knowemptyspaces as it is a journey of personal exploration, meant to highlight the Columbine anniversary, how God heals through nature, and the parallels between spiritual journey and physical struggle.
My hope is that this journey will magnify to others the restorative aspects of God’s creation and give others a road map for processing personal grief in nature and through outdoor experiences.
How will I do that? I am taking with me video and photo equipment and will be documenting my spiritual and physical journey with the hope that when I get back it will be used to glorify God in some way.
I have planned, I have prepared, I have trained. In the end I may fail or I may succeed. But in all things, I will grow, learn and experience God. I invite you to follow my journey on our social media channels and our website.
Please also pray for me as I journey across Colorado and try to glorify God through the activities I love so deeply. It is going to be an epic journey!
“Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10)