I did not think that I would ever compare the Appalachian Trail to my retirement from Dayton Christian School but as I was walking off campus for the last time on Thursday, there was a similar emotion and parallel feeling that impressed my spirit.
I had reached the end of the trail – 2,186 miles on the trail and now 10,585 days at the school. The approach to the summit was filled with excitement and a great sense of accomplishment. There were those moments of looking back over the mountains and valleys as the final peak came into view. People’s faces came to mind that had made the journey such a pleasure. Some of the adversity that made the adventure was re-read in the journal of my mind.
Then the final hike down Mount Katahdin and the final walk to the car in the parking lot brought the tears of realization that they journey has over. Tomorrow would not hold the same routine of preparation, encounters on the path, and comrades with a common purpose. That trail was conquered… that mission complete. Others would follow in the footsteps and enjoy that taste of fellowship of God in special ways.
Finally, there was the “hallelujah” of life after the trail. Hopping in the car of my best friend and heading down the road to what God had in store back home; climbing into my little red Civic and driving home to what awaits behind the door of retirement. This feeling of anticipation after accomplishment is such a mixed bag of emotion and mental chaos. On my last day on the Mountain I had tears of longing to see my wife, family, and friends, but a sadness of saying good-bye to the trail and its community of smelly hikers with crazy names. On my last day of ministry at D.C. I experienced a collection of tears and smiles, joy and reflection as I said farewell to beloved colleagues and walked the empty halls of this special building.
I am not sure what adventure God is calling me to now that my superintendent/principal hats have been hung in the closet, but I know it will be pretty exciting. I enter this time with the same comfort from God’s word that I did beginning the hike of my life – Psalm 91:1, 9, 15 – ‘Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty….If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent….He will call on Me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”