Hike Your Own Hike: Giving Grace to Others on Their Spiritual Journey


Bly Gap at border of NC & GA
This summer, my daughter and I took our first steps toward reaching our goal of section hiking the Appalachian Trail.  We covered nearly 50 miles in 4.5 days.  There were many things she and I learned on the trail.  Some of it was about backpacking, some about life, some things about people, some things about ourselves and some things about God.

There is a popular phrase regarding the AT that goes, “Hike your own hike.”  Most of my years on the trail have been spent leading and being responsible for groups anywhere from 5 to 75.  This was the first time that I could remember in a number of years that I have done a long hike where my concern was just me and my daughter.  She and I gave each other permission to hike our own hikes, as we set boundaries and rules for staying in touch even when we lost sight of each other (pardon that pun).

Seriously though, my vision loss provided a unique challenge for me as I had to learn my limits and my abilities.  It was at times very difficult to navigate stone steps and inclines.  I did not always get to see the beauty around me as I had to pay attention to each step.  But in that process, I did get to see beauty under my feet that I would have missed in the past.

I had the chance to be more aware of myself which is something very difficult when leading a large group.  I also could be fully attentive to my daughter and I got to know her better as a very strong, very independent, amazingly creative and funny young woman.

Getting to hike my own hike made me more aware of our need to give others permission to hike their hike.  I think if I had tried to make my daughter hike “my hike,” it would have robbed her of what the AT experience can be.  If I had tried to hike “her hike,” I would have missed precious moments of hearing God and meditating on the experience.

One thing unique about our hike, was that we were going south and most everyone was going north.  A
Low Gap Shelter, Georgia
couple of times we met up with people at shelters on the top of a peak and share lunch and stories.  We were all on the same trail, the same mountain, or the same shelter but each of us had hiked a different hike to get there. 

I do not see this as an analogy for all religions.  What I “see” in my experience is that the Body of Christ is big enough and there is room for diversity and experience for everyone to hike their own hike.  I know for some, denominations are seen as a perversion of Jesus’ call for unity.  Within my own tradition of Methodism, we have a diversity and often do not reflect our heritage which the United Brethren offered us in their name: “United.”  We talk about grace but often fail in sharing it with one another.

There is within the Scriptures, a diversity of experiences regarding salvation and growth in grace.  Just look at Peter and Paul (though there are other comparisons)!  They experienced Jesus in two very different ways yet it was still the one Lord they followed and worshipped.  I think this final conversation with Jesus that Peter had, illustrates the point…

“Peter turned around and saw behind him that other disciple, whom Jesus loved---the one who had leaned close to Jesus at the meal and had asked, "Lord, who is going to betray you?" When Peter saw him, he asked Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" Jesus answered him, "If I want him to live until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!" (John 21:20-22 GNB)”


Jesus calls Peter to “hike his own hike,” and not to try and pull John into his model of following Jesus.  We are not created to be clones and puppets.  Jesus doesn’t say to us we need to be identical but to be unique, using our gifts and that means, we’ve got to take a different path up the mountain, the same mountain all followers of Jesus are on.


Be aware of God’s presence and the work of the Spirit guiding you into Christ-likeness. Beware that you do not hike someone else’s hike or insist other people hike your hike.  Be attentive to voice of the Savior calling you to follow!

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