This Shepherd had the marvelous joy of taking a long walk with his eldest son last week. Number one son has been backpacking with me since he was five years old and our experiences have been memorable on every occasion. Three days and thirty one miles of unforgettable beauty and uninterrupted time forged memories that will last.
I was poignantly aware this was the last time he and I would take a walk like this. You see, he is graduating from high school this year. Knowing I would soon be sharing him with the rest of the world made every step bitter-sweet. I know he's ready for the adventure, I'm just not ready to send him off on his own yet.
The entire journey took on the air of an extended metaphor in our relationship: I used to carry his stuff for him, after all he was too small to carry it all, this trip he was carrying some of the things I usually carry, lightening my load because I am "getting old." I used to set the pace and encourage him to keep on walking, now I tell him to just go ahead I'll catch up at the next trail junction. I used to stop and point out things of interest to him, now I find myself interested in the things that interest him. The unbridled energy of his youth is now clearly focused and the realization of his strength, physical, emotional, and spiritual, humbles me. He will certainly surpass me
My son has become a man.
I weep tears of pride and sadness and joy and wonder even as I write those simple words. This should be no great surprise; he's been on this journey for 18 years now. I suppose I am simply awed by the realization.
When he walks it is as if the path is all that exists and the entire purpose of being in that moment is taking the next step. He is an intense hiker. I am wondering wanderer. Every sight and sound has the potential to stop me. I sometimes wonder if he, in his youthful strength, is ever awed.
A defining moment came unexpectedly (don't most defining moments?) on the second day. After a long and difficult climb to the ridge top and lunch stop in the sunshine, we came to a section of trail which narrowly followed the spine of the ridge. As I set foot on that narrow way I noticed my son stopped in the trail ahead of me. Unusual for him. I followed his eyes into North Carolina and realized why he had paused. His intensity was stopped in its tracks by beauty. His father was stopped in his tracks by love for his son and thanks to our Father for this moment shared. We exchanged no words. They would have only spoiled the view.
It was a walk with my son. What began as a father and his child taking a walk became a father taking a walk with his son who is a man.