Joy in the Journey

20 September 2019 - Park City Utah

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)

I was walking on my umpteenth day along US Highway 40 (spanning Colorado and Utah) last Monday, September 16, when it hit me. “I am tired of walking along roads! There are lots of trucks, it’s noisy, the asphalt shoulders are hard - and this isn’t what I want to keep doing!” The day started with 3-4 miles of a construction zone and the highway workers were friendly, but I was still tired of walking along roads. Usually, during the summer months, I have taken quite a few hikes along beautiful mountain trails by now, and as of Monday, that hadn’t happened. And this Monday of walking was right on the heels of Julia and my good friends in the Life Alignment Program joining me in Salt Lake City so that we could have one of our weekends together. Our facilitator, Julie, said to me at one point, “Would you be willing to stop walking if it’s not joyful? Would you consider only taking another step if it’s joyful?” Provocative questions! (Julie has a way of asking those.)

So, I’m walking along US 40 toward Heber City, Utah, wondering about Julie’s questions and wondering about joy. In particular, I was thinking about how I could experience more joy in my life. I was thinking about the elder son in Jesus’s parable about the father and the two sons (Luke 15:11-32), which I had just preached on the day before at Christ United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City. I was thinking, I am like the elder son in terms of being responsible (maybe sometimes even legalistic!). But I’m unlike him in that I want to join the party, the celebration, the dancing. I WANT to experience joy - more joy, more of the time. And I said out loud to God (yes, I do that sometimes while I am walking along the highway), “Sometimes I feel like I don’t know where the party is, or where the door to the party is!”

I do know that joy is not the same as happiness, that it is not dependent on my circumstances. If it were, how could Paul ever write to the Phillipians, “Rejoice in the Lord always…”? I know that joy has something to do with God/Christ/Spirit being present, and that God can and does show up in all sorts of different ways - through a real connection with another person, in work that is purposeful and fulfilling, when I am in nature, when we are participating in things that feed our souls… things like art, music, movement, a good book, or a good movie or play.

On Tuesday, September 17, I was still walking along Highway 40 (at least most of the day), from Heber City to Park City. But I made a choice on Tuesday to begin my new life with God, to live intentionally from joy. I texted a question to my family members and many of my friends, “What brings you joy?” I received some great responses throughout the course of the day. (The responses brought me a lot of joy!) As I began my walk that morning, I thought to myself, “I’m going to have less of an agenda today of covering X amount of miles in Y amount of hours. If I want to stop and see something, I’m going to do just that.”

I wasn’t 10 minutes into my walk when I saw a little coffee shop / cafe called “Chick’s” that a local resident had told me had good scones. So, I stopped in and ordered a scone. But my server explained that it wasn’t exactly a scone. It was a fried pastry, more like a sopapilla, only bigger, that came with butter and honey. I ate some of it as soon as it was brought to me. YUM! I had a very pleasant interaction with my server, who was very kind. And then, when I was ready, I asked for a baggie, took the rest with me, and was back on the road. And something like joy came over me.

That night, I reviewed my schedule and remembered that the next day of my walk was going to be much shorter - only 6.5 miles - and all on trails. It was mostly traversing the Park City ski resort, and then going up and over Scott’s Bypass and a little way down the other side of the mountain. And Wednesday arrived without a cloud in the sky, and it stayed that way the whole day. Within an hour of beginning my walk I heard elk bugling, and the light was fantastic for morning pictures. I took four hours to cover those 6.5 miles, and even was able to take a short detour to summit a 10,000-foot mountain.