A hiking trail is where I come the closest to understanding the concept of freedom and the grip of fear. While hiking, I experience God’s purest creation– a wild, vast wilderness with a narrow pathway that winds and winds through the great unknown until I reach a pinnacle. It’s expansive, limitless, boundless. It’s everything I think of when I think of total freedom.
In my hometown, hiking trails are practically nestled right up against my backyard. Growing up, they were the best place to go for a quick escape into nature. I recently went back to hike in that area. While there, I experienced a powerful lesson about the concept of freedom, particularly God’s concept of freedom for us, and the power we have to control fears that threaten our ability to live free.
That day, I was enjoying the peace of the outdoors with friends. I was taking in all that was created by the Creator of it all, when suddenly fear threatened my fun. It wasn’t the fear of coming into contact with something I had seen – no animal or dangerous step was in sight – but rather it was a fear and anxiety of what could be ahead. Suddenly with each step, I was frightened instead of resting in the peaceful environment that surrounded me.
My fear settled itself on the potential encounter with a rattlesnake. It was a legitimate fear for that location, but with each step, my fear began to take over. I was no longer enjoying my hike. I was getting increasingly anxious that something terrible, even fatal, could occur. To make matters worse, the weeds and plants along the trail were so overgrown that I couldn’t see beyond a few feet in front of me. As I took each step, blind faith and trust were all I had to carry me through. All I could do was set one foot in front of the other, despite how scary the unknown looked, and trust that I would be safe.
This experience really convicted me to look at my relationship with God and showed me how I should live each day in Him. The fear of the unknown can be so crippling to the abundant life we are called to live in.
“There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in life.” 1 John 4:18 (MSG)
In Christ, we get to experience the fullness of perfect love, and in that love, there is no room for fear. Christ’s love chases out all fear and the chains that hold us down are broken. Does this mean we’ll never fear again, and that we shouldn’t fear the proverbial rattlesnake that might lie ahead of us, lurking in the unknown?
Of course not. I face a daily struggle to trust what I cannot see. So often I find myself crippled by the fear of the unknown and feeling so terrified of the “what-if’s” that could be lurking ahead. My heart races, my mind feels fuzzy and, in the blink of an eye, all joy and excitement for life becomes lost in a haze of worry and confusion All I can focus on is the potential that something could go terribly wrong.
On a hike, the narrow trails typically require the hikers to walk in a single file line. Typically the bravest hiker goes to the front of the line to lead the way and clear the path for those walking behind. Each hiker behind the leader puts his or her faith in the leader to pick the safest path and get the goup to the top of mountain. I am gratefulf for that leader. So, you might be askiing why I feared an encounter with a snake when the person in front of me didn’t seem to?
Again, it’s another lesson to learn about God and following Him. If I put my full faith in Jesus to lead me, then what shall I fear?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
Jesus knows the path I am walking on. He is the one leading the way. As long as I am following Him and putting my full trust in His ways, I do not have to fear. He has cleared the tall weeds ahead of me, scoped out the environment around me, and ensured that His path is the only path to reach the pinnacles of life.
Hiking will always remain an exciting activity for me and my friends and, although it will always have its challenges, it will always be worth it when we’ve made it to the top of a mountain or the opening of a beautiful lake. Hikes are not always easy, but the view along the way makes every step to the end worth it.
Rattlesnakes and other dangerous things are real. There will always be aspects to hiking that can produce fear and it’s smart to be cautious at times, but fear should never stop me from embarking on a new adventure. This is true about life too. Sharp curves and dangerous situations can pop up out of nowhere, but we shouldn’t dwell on the possibility, causing us to never take on an adventure. Scripture tells us in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not e dismayed, for I am your God. I wil strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God has gone before you and me and walks alongside us every day assuring we live out our purpose to the fullest.
In Him, I am free and, in Him, I can release the fears and burdens that hold me back from all that this life has to offer. As long as we live on this Earth, so does the “rattlesnake”, but the joy and hope we have in the Lord is that fears of the future won’t hold us back from fully experiencing the joy of the world around us. Jesus leads the way, and I just have to follow, simple as that. And I have a pretty great feeling that Jesus’ path will have the most beautiful views of all.
Taylor Arroyo is a self-proclaimed ‘Southern Belle trapped in Southern California’. She currently resides in sunny LA, where she works in marketing for FabFitFun. In her free time, she loves: being outdoors, fellowship with friends, and most of all, spontaneous dance parties with her husband, Aaron!
Follow Taylor on Instagram @tay.arroyo