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The Most Excellent Way (40 Days in the Wilderness)

It’s been a little over 3 weeks since I got done with my 40 day backpacking trip.  The bulk of the trip was spent in the most remote place in the lower 48… the Wind River Mountains, located in Western Wyoming.  Maybe I’m biased, but I’d venture to say it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.

As I hiked around 120 total miles with my 50-80 pound pack, I pondered what my first blog back in civilization would look like.  I figured I’d write one within the first couple of days I got back.  But to be honest it’s been overwhelming and difficult bringing myself to do this.

It’s taken me awhile to even get a grasp of what happened to me in those 40 days and nights– climbing the mountain tops, wading the river streams, swimming the ice cold lakes and tromping through the meadows of wild flowers.  But then I realized it’s impossible to put the whole trip into one silly blog post.  I realized it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, I can just tell about what I learned in little bits… and thus begins the “Adventures with Schtick Jagger” blog series.

I don’t know how long it’s going to last or how many posts it will take for me to feel like I even began to put this trip into words, but my hope is that this will help me more fully process things and that maybe I’ll speak a little truth, wisdom and encouragement along the way for anyone who takes the time to read this stuff.

About the title “Adventures with Schtick Jagger” … Schtick Jagger was the name I gave to my walking stick I found the first day in the Wind Rivers.  I brought him back to civilization with me… he’s kind of like my trophy for completing the trip.  You see Schtick isn’t just a stick. He was with me (and helped me) during some of the biggest, hardest and most adventurous moments of my life.  But enough about my weird obsession with personifying things (those of you who know about my relationship with my car Malib know what I’m talking about), onto the proverbial meat and potatoes.

It’s been a combination of incredible and difficult being back in Pullman, (where I go to school at WSU) the last two weeks.  The trip was life changing for me, and yet all the sudden I was back to my old life.  It’s like I changed and Pullman stayed the same.  The confusion resulted in me not making the best decisions the last two weeks. None of them were terrible. A lot of them were actually really fun.

But a lot of little bad decisions might be even more toxic than one big fat mistake. You know when you make a big fat mistake. But little bad decisions are so subtle, and seemingly harmless, then all the sudden you turn around and you’re a million miles from the person you had the potential to be.

Anyways… two weeks of little bad decisions later and all the sudden I was becoming the person I was before the trip.  I started to ask myself “did I change at all or was it all just a romantic fling with the wilderness?”

But here’s the thing: I was doing all those old things and they didn’t feel right. There wasn’t absolute truth in them, not like the truth I experienced on my trip. And then yesterday at church I realized, that even though I had been back to some of my old ways the last two weeks, I had been fundamentally changed on that trip and didn’t care to keep going back to those old ways.

And a beautiful gush of peace pulsed through my veins like the simple, truthful purpose of a mountain stream.

I think I just needed a little time to get re-acclimated to the fast pace of American culture. Things were different out there in the wilderness. You were busy, but your schedule was simple: Wake up, cook/eat, pack, walk, eat, walk some more, setup camp, nap/read/pray, cook/eat, devotionals/worship, bed.

You didn’t have to spend so much time thinking about how you were going to spend your time.

The first time I turned on my phone when I got back, my head almost exploded. It was insane to think that I could talk to any of the people I care about in a moment, when for 40 days I only talked to the 8 people physically with me (and random strangers on the trail).  The phone can be a beautiful thing if we use it for that. I don’t know if my mothers voice ever sounded so beautiful as I had my first phone call in 40 days.

There are a lot of people who believe facebook, cell phones, the Internet are evil things.  I only believe they are if you use them the wrong way.  Sure cell-phones cause us to text when we should be listening to something important our friend is telling us about their lives.  But in my 15-minute walk home from class I have this device that lets me talk to anybody I love, and that’s 15 minutes where we can empathize with each other and build a deeper relationship with each other. The only thing that other person has to do once I call them is pickup the phone.

Because that’s the truth I learned on the trip: to pick up the phone. When you’re around 8 other people who are really trying to have an authentic relationship with God, you’re around 8 other people who are willing to have an authentic, depth filled relationship with you.  You’re around people who will answer your call when you really need someone to talk to because they know that you would do the same thing for them.

It was amazing to be around people of depth for 40 days. Incredible. 100% refreshing.  That’s why it’s been hard being back in civilization.  Not everyone is living with the same depth. The world seems superficial, and at times, since being back, I’ve just wanted to scream “Most of you people are idiots! You don’t get it. Your souls are empty because you’re only focused on what your body needs.”

That’s an arrogant and uncompassionate thing to say. People aren’t idiots. They’re broken and don’t know how to deal with it.  It’s simple and incredibly difficult all at once really… we need to help each other deal with it. This isn’t a new idea. It’s called love. Before the Apostle Paul writes his big speech in Corinthians 13 about love that we hear at weddings all the time, he says something that the preacher never includes at the altar… he starts off that big speech about love being patient and kind with maybe the most beautiful sentence I think has ever been written,

“And now I will show you the most excellent way.” Corinthians 13:1.

That most excellent way he’s talking about is love.

Call me mushy. Call me emo. Call me gay.  But we all know deep down that it’s true.  We can either choose to love ourselves or we can choose to love others.  The more we do the first, to worse off the world is.  The more we do the latter, the faster we’ll all be saying, “It is well. It is well with my soul.”

We choose against the most excellent way a lot of times because it’s less work to choose the normal way.  In my opinion, frankly, the “normal way”… is bullshit. For a lot of us, the normal way is American culture.

But just look where our culture has gotten us.

Earlier I said we were getting into the meat and potatoes of this blog, well this my friends, is the center of the steak. Keep in mind that I’m not a cynic, I’m a realist when I say “America sucks right now.”  We all know it, and the ones who get offended by that statement just don’t want to admit it because it’s too overwhelming for them to change their beliefs. But let’s just face it, we are in some deep crap.

Our economy is bad. Our politicians solve problems like a high school showdown between the nerds and the jocks. We are infected with greed.  When I hear people casually use the phrase “sex sells” …  UGH. Where is a bucket so I can throw up in it?

Sex is the most intimate things human beings do. You don’t sell it ya dumbasses (I’m talking to the people who do, not my readers). Because once you become comfortable with that phrase, greed has no limits in your culture.  If you’ll sell sex, you’ll sell anything. And that’s the problem with capitalism when you don’t emphasize moderation.  When your country wants to make everything bigger, stronger, faster, better all the time, you live a life that craves excess.

And there’s nothing excessive about Jesus Christ.  That’s why he’s the most influential human to ever live.  He was the perfect balance of justice and grace.  Whether you think the church is a bunch of hypocrites, bible thumpers and weirdos or not I’d encourage you just to study Jesus.  If your belief about Christians is what I just mentioned, I’m here to tell you I get why you believe that.  It’s because we aren’t Jesus.  If we were half of who Jesus was, I say with confidence I think the whole world would believe in him by now.  He’s has some mad charisma when you really look at him.  He’s that “most excellent way” Paul was talking about.

The reason Christianity has a bad rap in the secular world is because the secular world gets the impression that we think we’re better than they are.  Which isn’t necessarily sound logic because they are judging us the same way we judge them, so we’re all guilty of the same crime.  That’s our American culture again, always wanting to know whose better.

But you know what Christians? I don’t think they’re completely wrong about that impression.  And the responsibility has to start with us because we should know better that we aren’t better. Many of us (me included) are self-righteous and uncompassionate. “We” aren’t better than them.  Jesus is.  And when we think we’re high and mighty because we know this truth the world doesn’t know, we’re spitting right in his face.

It’s not like we discovered some big secret.  We were fortunate to have people in our lives that showed us Jesus.  None of us probably had any idea what we were doing when we got saved… we were probably kids and something about the phonetics of that name Jesus made you pee a little bit with an excitement you couldn’t describe so you said this prayer your mom helped you with (at least that’s how it happened for me).

But we are not better than the secular world. The only thing that separates us from them is that Holy Spirit who owns a house in our souls… for the secular world he can only rent an apartment.  So enough getting offended or sarcastic when we see some college kids drinking beer… what the hell do you think Jesus used at the last supper? It wasn’t grape juice like we like to pretend when we take communion. It was wine. Can anyone tell me why our (Christians) butt cheeks clinch up when we hear the word alcohol? Obviously the person we pray to didn’t have a problem with it in moderation.

Instead of judging them, what we should be thinking when we see college students drinking beer is “are their souls at peace? And if not how can I (the Christ in me) relate to them in a way that will help them find that peace?”

We have to stop choosing the normal way, the way that loves ourselves and what’s comfortable, and start choosing the most excellent way, the way that loves others and builds character.

People get overwhelmed by the obscurity of the bible often times, but you really have to read a lot of it to see that sometimes it’s simple and easy if we can just do what it says.  I believe Micah 6:8 is one of those passages.  “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  That my friends, is the simple meat and potatoes of life. That is some of the truth I learned on my 40 day backpacking trip. That… is the most excellent way.


About ananiasgo

Charles Westerman is a freelance writer, songwriter, school bus driver and murder mystery theater actor living in Portland, Oregon. He grew up on a ranch in Chugwater, Wyoming as the youngest of five kids and graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Journalism and English Lit. in May 2012. In between driving his Jr. High minions back-and-forth from school, he is currently at work writing his debut literary novel, Where Heaven Meets Cheyenne and its sequel. A two-part telling of the story of his ordinary family that came together in an extraordinary way. For the past two and half years he has worked to tell this story with honesty, excellence and honor to the characters who made it possible.

2 responses to “The Most Excellent Way (40 Days in the Wilderness)

  1. Lynn Kirkbride ⋅

    So now you know… the challenge of living the most excellent way stands before you…. and before me…..He will never let you down and it will be one wild ride I promise you that! Are you taking the challenge?

  2. Jeremy Wesrerman ⋅

    Nice char…I listen to Sufjan’s Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing while I read it. Pretty emo but it fit it perfect.

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