It’s Canada Day!
Congratulations, Canada, on being formed as part of the British Empire. The USA started that way too, but let’s not talk about the USA today. It’s your day, Canada!
Instead, lets talk about the time you gave me Trench-foot.
It was the summer before my senior year of high school and my church youth group was doing a two-week mission trip. The first week was an intense team-building, spiritual journey that consisted of a week-long hike/canoe trip through the Canadian wilderness that is Algonquin Provincial Park. The second week would find us in upstate New York, running a Vacation Bible School for a church that our youth pastor found.
That first week was a doozy. The guys were separated from the girls (it’s easier to enforce modesty this way). Then the men were separated from the boys, but just figuratively. We were teamed up into two-man teams; one man to carry the canoe, one man to steer the man carrying the canoe because the guy stuck beneath the canoe could only see his feet.
The hike was probably equal parts rowing the canoe and carrying the canoe between bodies of water, also known as portaging. It was on one of the extended portages late in the week that I came upon one of life’s truths. The backs of my hands were bumpy like the back of a toad from all the mosquito and black fly bites. I was tired, sore, and my feet had not been properly aired for a few days and were beginning to hurt. I was carrying the canoe through the woods, and I couldn’t take it anymore. So I stopped.
“What’s the deal?” asked the guy who had been steering me.
“I hate this,” I said. “I hate having to walk up hills with a canoe on my head, a pack on my back, and no way to swat away the mosquitoes that are attacking my hands. But it’s not like I can stop here, can I? I can’t just refuse to go on. And I hate that too. I realize that I’m going to have to pick this d___ed canoe back up and keep going, and it doesn’t do any good to complain, but I just needed a moment to vent. I’m sorry.”
Then I picked up the canoe and continued.
I think the point of the trip was to squeeze us so we could see what we were made of. I think it was to stress us just enough to break down the barriers that we’d built up around ourselves so we could see what God had for us.
What I got out of that trip was that I couldn’t stop moving, no matter how crappy my current situation is, because if you stop, you just get stuck where you don’t want to be. Sure you can complain a bit, but you have to pick up your life and move on. That’s what I got.
Well, that and a mean case of Trench-foot, the WWI disease that soldiers got for not letting their feet dry out in the trenches. The step after Trench-foot is gangrene. Then your feet fall off.
Anyway, thanks Canada, and Happy Canada Day.
P.S. My feet didn’t fall off. Doctors in the USA were able to fix me.
P.P.S. It would have been a much better spiritual example if, after setting the canoe down, Jesus materialized and picked it up. Or at least, that’s what the people who make money from the poem Footprints in the Sand would have liked. Really, the Christian life is more like what I experienced, but the destination is not the camp at the end of the trail, it’s Heaven. And we are not supposed to complain. Also, we’re supposed to be inviting people who are driving ATVs toward the nude beaches nearby to give up their ways, pick up a canoe, and join us. But it will be totally worth it in the end, because the nude beach was really next to a nuclear power plant that was going to meltdown soon, and we have really juicy steaks (forgive me vegans) waiting for us at the end of the trail. Something like that anyway.