My son, Elijah, and I had been talking about going backpacking overnight on the rugged Pine Mountain Trail in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky. Known for its sandstone cliffs and enormous boulders, I wanted to be sure he was strong enough before making the difficult trek.
About the same time, my wife, Katie, said I needed to talk with Elijah about sex. He had just turned 13 and I knew this discussion was overdue. But honestly I felt a little inadequate, and I was looking for the right resource to help me.
Then Katie brought home a Passport2Purity® kit. It was developed by FamilyLife to help parents prepare their children for issues they’ll face when they become teenagers—things like peer pressure, dating, and premarital sex.
Designed to use on a weekend getaway for a father/son or mother/daughter, Passport2Purity has step-by-step instructions, and that made me breathe a sigh of relief. There’s a CD message from Dennis and Barbara Rainey for each of its five sessions, a journal for preteens with follow-up devotions, Scripture memory songs, and downloadable MP3s.
I was pleased with the creative, biblical content. So I asked Elijah if he’d like to go on a combined Passport2Purity/backpacking weekend. He jumped at the opportunity.
We left after lunch one Friday for a 15-mile hike with all of our gear, journals, an iPod full of Passport2Purity sessions, and a whole lot of prayer.
Seeing life more clearly
Katie and I had both written notes to Elijah in his journal, so she joined us at the beginning of our hike. We read the notes out loud to him and then gave him a pair of binoculars. We said we hoped they’d help him see farther down the trail … that by the end of the weekend he’d be seeing things about life more clearly.
After hiking for a while, Elijah and I took a long break and went through the first session on my iPod. We listened as Dennis Rainey compared the difficult choices teens face in life to different animal traps. Elijah really liked the fun way it taught a lesson about trusting people.
But since we were hiking, we modified some of the materials for the projects. For example, the theme for the first project was: The Bible is your guide for life. Instead of using a puzzle, as suggested, we used a map. And learning how to follow that map was the basis for our entire weekend.
The right path
It didn’t take too long before Elijah and I discovered what would happen if we veered off the path. After following a trail marked by yellow and green paint on trees and rocks, the green marks seemingly disappeared.
I was hesitant about taking the “yellow path,” but Elijah seemed pretty confident that it was the right one. Since it was his weekend, I deferred to him.
A few miles later, when we reached a gravel road, we stopped and turned around. Eventually we located the green marks again and followed them, knowing we were now heading in the right direction.
I told Elijah that following God’s ways is like going down the right path. And that the Bible is His trail map for life.
As we continued on with our hike, we stopped periodically to go through other Passport2Purity sessions. The conversational tone of the material helped both Elijah and me relax.
During one of the messages, Dennis said, “If you look at your dad, he’s nodding his head.” Sure enough, Elijah was already looking at me right before he said that, and I was nodding my head. “That’s cool; how did that happen?” Elijah said. “It’s like Mr. Rainey is right here with us!”
Elijah and I were both pretty tired by the end of our second day when it was time to head back home. And because we had spent so much time hiking on a wrong path, we spent the last hour hiking in the dark.
We actually saw the trail markers better at night because they had been painted with reflective paint. When we shined our flashlights at them, they reflected back at us.
Elijah and I talked about how even in dark times, if we keep our eyes on Scripture and Christ, He will reflect back and show us where to go.
My favorite view
We had an amazing weekend together. The weather had been perfect and we saw some remarkable scenery. Elijah said that a highlight for him was standing on a huge boulder that overlooked both Kentucky and Virginia. He said the view was incredible.
What was my favorite view?
The one I hope I gave Elijah—of following God’s ways as he chooses his own path for life.
Copyright © 2015 by Mitch Estep. Used with permission.