My wife and I love living in Colorado. We are ‘outdoors’ type people, so we have enjoyed this paradise. One of our favorite things is hiking.
We take a pretty long walk every morning (about an hour) and enjoy the beautiful mountains where we live. Usually we walk out our door, cross the street and hit one of the nearby trails.
On weekends we try to hike one of the ‘hard’ or ‘difficult’ trails near us.
There are over 500 hiking trails close by. That’s amazing. So we get our choice of outdoor adventures every week.
The other day, during one of our morning walks, we decided to drive about a half mile down the road to get access to one of the trails we’ve wanted to hike. It’s an easy trail, but it does follow some of the upper-country.
On our morning walks, we usually talk about our day, dreams, devotional times, and just ‘be together.’ Nothing heavy. Just talk. And walk.
It’s easy to get caught up in talking and not really pay attention to our surroundings. Especially on those days when walk a path we are familiar with.
On this particular day, we were on a new path. AND…we were caught up in conversation. In fact, I was quite distracted.
At one point, I noticed a natural rock ‘wall’ that rose about 10 feet high. My curiosity kicked in and I wanted to see what was on the other side.
So…I ventured off trail briefly (still talking with Michelle), climbed up on the rock ledge and peered over. On the other side was a field that stretched out for about 300 yards.
As I was making my way off the rock ledge back toward the trail, I heard the sound no hiker wants to hear. Rattling. (I guess the only worse sound would be a ‘roar!’)
The rattling was coming from more than one direction. As in multiple rattles. Meaning more than one rattlesnake.
By the time it registered in my brain what it was, I was standing back on the trail. I immediately stopped in my tracks.
I’m not sure if Michelle heard the rattlesnake at the same time I did…or if she responded to my words ‘rattlesnake!’ but she jumped (this time not asking me to tell her a joke! Read about that here) and started running down the trail.
“Michelle! Don’t run.”
I wasn’t sure where they were, so I didn’t want her to step on one while she was fleeing to safety…we didn’t know where ‘safety’ was at the moment.
She gathered her emotions and stood still (something that goes against every instinct in a woman – and probably most men). But she stood there while I surveyed the landscape to figure out where they were.
When my eyes finally zeroed in on their location, I realized that I had almost stepped right in the middle of five (5)…that’s right…five rattlesnakes. F. I. V. E.
As they signaled their warning through their rattles, it sounded like a symphony. Of fear. Of panic.
They were less than 6 feet away from me. One was coming off the embankment where I had just seconds ago descended from the rock wall.
One was slithering under a giant rock. More than likely their home.
Another was stretched out near the trail.
And two…yes two…were coiled just feet away from me.
Once I got their headcount and knew where they were I told Michelle to walk down the path to get clear from danger. Once she was out of the way, I slowly moved to the other edge of the trail and followed Michelle down the path.
When we were clear from any danger, and my adrenaline was back to normal, I realized just how close I came to stepping right in the middle of a rattlesnake den.
We’ve been in Colorado long enough to know the dangers that can happen when hiking in the mountains. We usually take precautions and are prepared mentally, and physically, when we take our long weekend hikes.
But usually our morning walks are in moderate to heavily trafficked areas where there is very little risk of dangerous wildlife. So our guards were down.
We were mentally…and physically…unprepared for what we encountered in that split second. As you can imagine, it was the topic of conversation for the next several hours.
Here’s Some Things I Gleaned
As I thought about that event later, I realized I needed to be aware of my surroundings at all times. While we will probably avoid that trail in the future, that alone does not guarantee we won’t see more snakes and other wildlife regardless of where and when we hike.
(Quick side note: When we hiked Bloggett Peak we saw a lady on the trail as we were returning to our vehicle. She told us the week before she had seen a couple of mountain lions in the area. The following week we were on a different trail and there were posted signs to be aware of mountain lions. YIKES!)
So…we have learned some lessons and are now more prepared on our daily walks.
There are also spiritual lessons I’ve applied to my life from this near mishap.
1) There can be dangers when we stray off the path.
Look, I’m not saying that you can’t ever ‘leave the path.’ Many of the greatest adventures in life are ‘off road’ so to speak. So this is not a ‘play it safe’ message when it comes to life’s adventures.
Yet when it comes to our spiritual lives, we need to realize there are dangers that lurk off trail.
It’s usually when we stray from our spiritual foundation that we run into trouble.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about problems. There are problems anywhere and everywhere. You can’t escape the fact that you will face and encounter issues that need to be resolved and solved.
Problems face us all.
Trouble, (at least the definition I’m using in this article) on the other hand, is something that is manufactured from poor choices in life.
Problems happen because we live in a fallen world. Stuff happens. And we have to deal with it.
Trouble is self inflicted. It happens because we strayed off trail (spiritually speaking) and engaged in things that have negative consequences.
Trouble is the fruit of bad decisions.
Problems are the result of a fallen world.
I hope you see the difference.
So when it comes to adventure and recreation, venture off trail and experience life.
But when dealing with your spiritual values, stay in the middle of the path God has laid out before us.
2) We need to watch our steps.
Awareness. That’s the big thing I learned about hiking in Colorado. Always be aware of your surroundings. Aware of where you putting your foot. Your hand. Aware of what’s near you.
I learned to watch my step.
It’s the same spiritually.
We all face hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions each day.
Because of this we need to be conscious of where we step.
Let’s apply this to practical life…
Our culture is so plugged in to the internet that we often lose sight of people.
I see people at restaurants engrossed in Facebook on their phones.
Or texting someone else, while ignoring the person right in front of them.
The Enemy Plays To This Weakness
The dark criminal underworld realizes that these distractions play to their advantage.
Think about it. If you were a criminal, would you target someone who was obviously aware of their surroundings? Someone who pays attention to the details of what was around them?…
Or would you target the person so engrossed in their cell phone that they couldn’t tell you where they were?
The enemy of our soul is no different.
The Bible tells us that he goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Those who are unaware are easy prey.
That’s why there is a warning associated with that verse:
Be alert. Be Sober minded.
Be sober, be vigilant;
Be serious! Be alert!
I love the words connected to this. Alert. Vigilant. Serious. Sober.
Paints a pretty clear picture.
Question is: How aware are you? Are you alert? Or distracted?
It’s something to think about!
3) We don’t need to panic.
When we panic, we make decisions and do things that can get us in deeper trouble. It can move us away from the safety we desire.
Think about it.
If we had gone running off the trail because we heard the rattling noise of those rattlesnakes, we could have run right into the trouble we were trying to escape.
Standing still goes against everything our emotions want us to do. But we MUST keep our cool and get our senses about us so we can make a good decision. Not a dangerous reaction.
Reactions are not decisions.
Reactions come when we respond out of fear, anger, or some other irrational emotion.
Decisions come from calculated, wise insight.
Many people live their life in ‘reaction mode.’ Every decision is an emotional response instead of a planned action.
They fly off the handle. Think negative. And over react to almost every situation. Their emotions are toxic. All because they are not in control of their life.
When we operate in fear, we usually live in regret.
I’m sure there are other lessons I will glean from this ‘off trail encounter’ but that’s it for now.
What about you?
What’s your take-away from my experience?
Have you had an ‘off trail spiritual encounter’ that taught you a lesson? I would love to hear about it.
Leave me a comment below.
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