At advancement time at a recent Troop meeting, I sat down with several Scouts doing Hiking Merit Badge with me to plan out a twenty-miler – the longest of the six hikes required for the badge. All of us were gearing up for a big challenge.
To my surprise, Marshall, an eleven-year-old Scout who just crossed over from Cubs in February, joined us. When I asked why, he said, “I want to do Hiking Merit Badge.” My eyebrows almost jumped off my face. “You do realize we’re talking about twenty miles here, don’t you?” I said. He professed his readiness to complete the hike.
When his mom showed up to get him, I talked with her about his wanting to go on this hike. She said, “I think it’ll be good for him.” My eyebrows already having shot skyward once, I don’t think I had any way left to register my amazement. But, I thought, Who am I to tell a healthy boy he can’t walk twenty miles if he wants, and his mother will let him? (Shrug)
Well, my suspicions were confirmed, and Marshall had no clue just how far twenty miles is. How could he know, seeing as how this was his very first hike – of any length? But he did just fine, and I give him full credit for guts. For that matter, I give full credit to the other Scouts, who also tromped along and nailed the big one. As I like to say, the agony lasts for just a day, but the braggin’ rights endure forever.
Anyway, as we drove home, I found myself thinking about Marshall’s decision to go on a twenty-mile hike as his very first hike in Boy Scouts. It’s a lot like when you volunteer for something. Nobody really believes the hype about teaching Sunday School or being on a committee or singing in the choir or being a Scout leader as “just an hour a week/month/whatever.” Nevertheless, even though none of us really knows just how much it’s going to take to do what we’ve volunteered for, we go ahead and volunteer anyway, and many of us keep on doing it, despite its costs and hassles, and find it truly rewarding.
In the same way, none of us really understands the amazing words we say when we profess our faith and join the Church – at least, not at the time. And those cosmic promises (Yes, sir, please God, I will follow Jesus Christ for ever and ever, no matter what it takes, cross my heart, etc.) – how could we ever know what it’s going to take to follow Christ for the rest of our lives? Yet, we stand up and say those words and make those promises, and God is pleased when we do. It’s only later (much later) that we ever begin to realize how much it takes – how much more than we even have to give – to really follow Christ.
And yet, looking back, we are glad to say we did it. I wouldn’t have missed the journey for the world. How about you?