Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blind trust walks

Did you ever go to church camp when you were a kid? I only went once as an 8th grader, but then in high school I was given the opportunity to be a "counselor-in-training", and so began my long (but distinguished) involvement in Counseling and Directing at Camp. I counseled so many jr. high week-long church camps between the ages of 16 and 30 that I literally have lost count. One summer I was at camp three times, each time for a week, because taking that much time off of work and rearranging my life was actually easier to me than not going to camp. I absolutely love it . And while I could talk and talk on camp until you'd swear that you had been there with me, I won't (you can thank me later), but I am going to tell you about an element I have included in nearly every camp I have directed, "trust walks".

In a blindfolded trust walk session, all of the campers are put into pairs, preferably not with their best friends, and one member of the pair is blindfolded. The other then becomes their guide, taking their hand and calling out verbal instructions, while they walk around the camp and down the twisting, turning, up-and-down riverside trails for 15 minutes or so, until the blindfold is switched. It is an excellent teaching tool. At the minimum, the kids gain a greater appreciation for the blind, but they also learn how to put their total trust in another person and how to accept the responsibility of being a person on whom trust is placed.

The most fun part of it is being the guide. Definitely. As the guide, not only can you see what is coming and thereby walk normally, you get a front-row seat to the insecurities and infallibility of your blind peer. You get to see them stumble, you get to see them worry, and you get to watch them take big, giant, loping footsteps because they have learned the hard way that you don't always inform them of the tree root just ahead. Or the wall. You can see the insecurity that normally lies hidden when we have our eyes to help us. It's a tad comical to watch, certainly, and a much more secure position than being blind.

The least fun part, by far, is being blindfolded. Definitely. While you are blindfolded, you can hear the twigs snap and the river roar, but you still have no real clue as to exactly where you are. You can feel the breeze or the shade of trees, but that does not assist your understanding of which way to turn. You can feel the trail climbing higher and higher up a wicked hill, but you have no idea where the top is, and therefore you must press on. And as you are ackwardly stumbling along looking like a lost moose in overshoes, peals of laughter ring through the air. What is going on?? Giggles and snickers and snorts abound. Huh?? Did I just miss something?? As the person totally and completely at the mercy of someone as simple-minded, annoying, and silly as you, one tends to acquire a few fresh bruises, experience a few moments of fear and frustration, and quickly gain a deep appreciation for the gift of sight. Not so comical.

So, have you ever taken one? Have you ever strapped on a bandanna and, without cheating and tilting your head back so that you can look under the lower edge on the sly thereby giving the illusion that you are blind but really you aren't and all of the sudden others think you must have ESP or something...hee hee...have you ever, while blindfolded, allowed someone else to guide your every step on a twisting, changing, and at times, arduous walk around a church camp for 15 minutes? Have you ever been at the total mercy of someone who is as simple-minded, annoying, and silly as you?

It's not easy.

It's not easy to put your safety, well being, and confidence in another person. It is not easy to have no idea which way you are going or when it may end. It is not easy to have no true knowledge as to which way is the best way to turn. It is not easy to feel the hill without seeing the top. It is not easy to stumble, to worry, to suddenly feel a wall in your face before you have the chance to react. It is not fun to end up bruised and tattered while another person giggles. I think I'll pass, thankyouverymuch.

But, isn't that my life already? Aren't I on the world's longest trust walk? Am I not, in fact, already blind to what lies ahead, or which way to turn, or how high the hills are? Am I not already at the mercy of a guide? Am I not already completely helpless on my own, lost in the woods with no way to go but forward assisted by the guiding hand of another??

I'm gonna have to go with a YES on that one.

Blind trust walks not only gave me the appreciation for the blind, but also an appreciation for life. I am blind. In fact, all of us walking around on this earth are blindfolded. God designed it that way. Laced fully into our humanity is the inability to see the future. To know what is ahead. To have any real control. Oh, sure, I do have some control, but ultimately, where I go, what I walk over, and how many tree roots are in my path is totally and completely up to my Guide. Only He knows what lies ahead. Only He has the power to see the trail with all of its twists, turns, hills, and wide open spaces...and I am fully at His mercy to lead me over them all.

But praise Him that He has taken me by the hand and committed to be my Guide over the paths. Praise Him that He will lovingly tell me to "step higher" so I can avoid many of the roots on the ground. Praise Him for knowing that if He allows me to stumble sometimes when I arrogantly loosen my grip or stop listening, that I will hold tighter and listen closer to His instruction. Praise Him that when I cannot see the top of the hill, rather than discouraging me by telling me I'll never make it, my Guide encourages me to keep going in faith because there is, in fact, a top. Praise Him that sometimes he says "the way is clear", and gives me the freedom to run down a childproofed meadow on the backside of the hill. Praise Him that when I drop His hand, He does not leave me totally alone, but rather He waits for me to take it up again. Praise Him that He is not a sneering, jeering, twit who is as arrogant as I am, and that He never takes pleasure in all of my stumblings. And praise Him that I will, in fact, be successfully led out of the woods and off the trail to the moment my eyes are opened, when I can squint in the light and see His face, knowing that the walk is fully over.

I love my Guide. I think I'll take a hike with Him.

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