By: Sarah Brubaker
When I boarded the plane to Colorado, it felt like just another business trip. You would think that packing hiking boots and camping gear would have been a clue that this one was going to be slightly different. But in the hurricane of finishing my fellowship with World Vision ACT:S, moving back to my parents’ place, and heading out on this trip, I hadn’t thought through much of anything.
The trip was the 5 Summits Colorado hike with Venture Expeditions. Their mission is “Benefit the world. Discover your soul.” So here’s the setup: each of the 8 hikers raised funds to not only go on the trip, but donate towards bed nets to help prevent malaria (benefit the world). Then, we met up in Colorado and backpacked into the Sangre de Cristo wilderness for 7 days (discover your soul). My mistake going in was treating benefitting the world and discovering your soul how I just described them: separately.
Looking back, I don’t know when the split happened, because it didn’t used to be that way. My journey into social justice happened as I discovered my soul and came alive through the work of Jesus in my life. But somewhere in the last couple of years, in trying so hard to do something good and to do it right, in all of the “could’s” and “should’s” and “supposed-to’s” and best practices, I got distracted and disconnected. And I didn’t even see it happen.
So I showed up in Colorado to benefit the world and discover my soul, tired and not really caring about either that much. Don’t get me wrong—I love the mountains and hiking, and I was more than excited to meet the team. As far as the purpose of what we were doing though, well, I knew I needed to be there but wasn’t sure I wanted to.
But after the third day of hiking, after summiting mountain number two of the trip, I finally felt something shift.
We were camping at Lakes of the Clouds, and after dinner and chores were done I found myself on a lake’s shore. Perched on a smooth rock, the water sliding in close to my almost-blistered duck-taped toes, and carrying nothing but my journal and remembered hymns, the tension I had been holding so closely finally released. Sitting there above 11,000 feet watching the trout leap through the surface of the lake while the clouds sifted through the pines around me, my soul could finally breathe.
Camping in the wilderness, there was nothing that I had to be doing other than to be there. None of the “could’s” and “should’s” and “supposed-to’s” and best practices had anything to do there, so they left. For the first time in months, I was able to not only see myself and all of those disconnects clearly, but to hear the whispers of my Creator around me.
The catch is that I don’t believe the shift completely happened at the lake when I was by myself; that’s just when I noticed it. It had started over the last three days of hiking with the team. Instead of the normal constant introvert dialogue in my head, I had been forced to take my focus outward to encourage and be encouraged. To help and be helped along the trail. “There’s a good foothold here,” “Watch out—this rock is loose,” and “Just a minute. I need a break,” changed us from individuals climbing 5 mountains to us, hiking together.
Being with a team took the focus off of myself in a different way than advocating for someone could do. Being in the wilderness took away all of my distractions in a different way than an hour of quiet time could do.
It took that time away for me to remember that in discovering my soul, I benefit the world because I am able to bring my best, most honest, most passionate self to it. And to remember that benefitting the world might mean walking with the person right next to me, one step at a time through a seemingly impassable field of boulders.
So the question, now that I’m not in the mountains anymore, done with my college advocacy days, finished interning with ACT:S, and living in the suburbs, is how do I keep my soul breathing? How do I hear the Whisper? The answer lies somewhere in my actions and my holding still, my speaking and my listening.
If those questions resonate with you, I’d encourage you to check out Venture and consider taking your own wilderness journey. You just might find the beginning of an answer, and ask some new questions of your own.