It a bright and cloudless day, 9:00 AM and 24*F, when I parked the at the Chamisa Trail trailhead on Hyde Park Road. We were in Santa Fe for the week while Cyndi attended a workshop, and I had planned a two-hour hike to judge whether my knees were ready for our Iron Men Guadalupe Peak hike in two weeks.
As I gathered my gear and studied the map I noticed there were two mostly-parallel trails. Then I saw a sign reading “Alternate Route More Difficult.” I decided the alternate route was the one for me; after all, this was intended to be a test.
While the regular trail followed the fall line across the face of the mountain the Alternate Route climbed straight up the drainage, meaning there were several steep climbs. I was very careful to keep from slipping and banging my knees. The trail was still covered with snow from yesterday’s storm but I was using trekking poles and they kept me stable on the ice.
For the first thirty minutes my hands were uncomfortable cold, painfully cold, even with my gloves. Still, it was a beautiful morning and an incredible hike. After about 45 minutes I reached a trail junction where the Alternate Route joined the original Chamisa Trail, as well as the Saddleback Trail, which in spite of its name followed a ridge line.
I followed the Saddleback Trail to the southwest for another 15 minutes, sticking to my original plan which was to go out for an hour then return. I wanted to give my knees a good test, but I also wanted to be able to function the rest of the day – two hours seemed realistic.
On the way back toward the trailhead I kept thinking about that sign and the Alternate Route up the mountain. So often we willingly take the Alternate Route More Difficult in our everyday lives, not to make our journey harder but to it significance. We’re not satisfied with a simple easy hike through life, but take on challenging projects day after day.
I thought about how many times I’ve been driving across town to a potentially contentious church council meeting, or another late night Journey Group session, or even chewing over the Bible lesson I’m supposed to teach in two days and wondering where is the handle of the lesson, and wondered what it would be like to live a simpler life.
I remembered one time on the Guadalupe Peak Trail with Paul Ross, just as we finished the opening switchbacks and stopped to drink some water, when one of us said, There must be an easier way to do ministry. We both nodded in agreement even as we both knew neither of us would be satisfied following that easier way.
The alternate route, the more difficult route, the meaningful route, calls out to us. Following our calling is never the easier trail.
I spent years watching my parents live lives fully engaged with other people, giving away their talents and energy, choosing the Alternate Route More Difficult. And now, following that family tradition, I feel a deep-heart calling to help people live deeper lives with God. Even as I long for a simpler life I know I’ll never be happy if I’m not engaged with the Alternate Route.
And so, I’m encouraging you to choose the Alternate Route More Difficult. I’m urging you to find God’s calling on your life and live it out for the benefit of those who are following you. Why? Because that’s the harder way, the way that matters, the way that changes the world.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32