By Megan Clark
Discipleship opportunities present themselves every day, everywhere, if you stay open to hearing and seeing from the Holy Spirit’s leading. You don’t need a curriculum or a degree from an accredited theological seminary. I grow right alongside my kids as we see everyday examples of God’s work in our lives. But I never thought our hiking trail would become a tool to teach us so much.
When we moved to our new house, we knew we wanted to create a way to enjoy the wooded acres on our property. We hatched a plan to clear a trail through the dense woods. In the early fall, we began the tireless work of clearing a trail, five to six days a week for months. We moved limbs and rocks, cut through fallen trees, and hacked through the thickest thorn vines in existence. We worked in the sun, heat, rain, wind, and freezing cold. We used shovels, hand saws, garden rakes, and leather gloves to slowly make progress through the thick, untamed dark woods. I worked with babies on my back and hard working kiddos at my side, and slowly the trail took shape winding a picturesque scene through the peaceful setting of wild nature. With blisters, sore backs, and tired bodies, we finally completed our trail months after we began, and we were rewarded with the perfect retreat deep inside the forest. The boys loved strapping on their army satchels and “survival gear” and heading out to track deer, raccoons, possum, and coyotes. We enjoyed taking walks in the snow and the shadows of the woods. Our hard work was totally worth it as we soaked up the peaceful hikes. But as time passed, freezing temperatures, wind storms, ice storms, flu season, flash flooding, road trips, basketball season, lightning strikes, and bear sightings caused us to neglect our beloved trail. Finally, a day arrived where the sun was shining, everyone was healthy, and we excitedly headed out to explore our woods. But we were not prepared for what we saw. The storms, wind, rain, and new spring growth had wreaked havoc. The kids could not have been more dismayed at the sight of our neglected path overgrown with weeds, littered with branches, and impassable with several fallen trees. In the silence of the woods, with drooping shoulders and shock over the condition of the trail, I gathered my guys close and asked them what they thought happened to our trail. Their consensus was that nothing should have happened to the trail. Once we had completed it, it should have stayed. After all, they worked hard at the beginning, and now they should be able to enjoy it anytime they wanted. “But now you know,” I answered back, “something so wild and untamed needs constant maintenance. Much like our hearts when we ask Jesus to be Lord of our lives.” They listened intently as we studied the outlines of our once cleared trail.
“Our hearts are wild and untamed. But once we ask God to be over our hearts and lives, He clears away all the weeds, broken rot, and thorns making a beautiful and clean heart. A new life in Christ is exciting and full of joy, but time goes by, and Satan knows that a few distractions can start a process of slowly growing back the weeds, vines, and thorns. They choke out the truths, peace, and faith you had in Christ. The doubts, fears, and broken promises creep in to completely overtake your heart as the enemy steals, kills, and destroys.”
My children responded, “But if we are constantly keeping it clear and clean and moving away any of the fallen trees and thorns Satan tries to send, our hearts won’t get so overgrown, right Mom?” “Right,” I answered. “Constant maintenance with reading God’s Word, praying, spending time with Christian friends, and cherishing the work God did in our lives in the first place will help keep our hearts free of all the distractions and temptations that could easily entangle us.”
Even though we didn’t look forward to the work of re-clearing the path, it was easier and more rewarding to watch our path retake the peaceful, serene setting it once was while picturing the work God does in our hearts once we belong to Him.
The path is back to being enjoyed, and each time we’re out hiking, at least one of the kids will mention how they never want their hearts to become like the neglected trail. I pray they’ll always be able to stand firm against the distractions of Satan and his desire to overgrow their walks with Christ.
Megan Clark is a homeschooling mom to four boys and a girl, who keeps her pediatric nursing skills sharp. She is married to Matthew Clark, an attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice. Living in Washington D.C. has given their family daily opportunities to explore and learn. Between hiking, running, baking, making messes, photography, and blogging, Megan and Matthew keep Christ the head of their household as they grow alongside their children in becoming more like Jesus.