Pre-AT – To Walk is Religion, To Breathe is Worship – Week Zero


The gospel is this:
not that a man died so you don’t have to,
but that God died and bore Hell
so you can die every day
without ever having to.


Three Whyevers

To step means to pass from the person you once were into a new person who has stepped—to die and become one walked. To walk is to become religious, evading stagnation, killing the still person you were, as much as directing yourself is a commitment to your conviction of where you ought to be at whatever time you suppose will be the end. To breathe, automatic and thoughtless, though with eternal significance, is to worship whyever you breathe, and one should consider who they will thank—or blame—for each breath.
This Saturday, I die to marry a peregrination of the Appalachian Trail. I hope to become her roughness and beauty while she becomes me. I breathe Grace and walk a narrow path towards becoming less. These coming months, I’m not asking God for a blinding road-to-Damascus experience as much as I am making myself available and hoping for a Word.
I am terrified. I’ve never done anything comparable to walking 2,200 miles, and I don’t know what could possibly make me feel prepared.

Three Whoevers

My name is George Smith—trail name TBD. I am a man of God before all else, then a poet, musician, and photo/videographer—i.e., I’m an unemployed college drop-out who’s been living in his mom and stepdad’s basement for some time now (and having a great time). My mind tends towards undue confidence, but my life exemplifies God-sent luck to save me at the last minute. Nothing about me makes me particularly well-qualified to hike this trail, but I believe I’ll make it alright.

Myself, George Smith, in front of the stone arch at the start of the approach trail at Amicalola Falls, Georgia.
I have established a vision of the man I want to be someday, and that vision has led to major changes in my life over the past year. Not only have I not met this man, but nothing hints he exists yet at all, so I know little of him. I know this of him: he has learned to praise good, instead of only criticizing evil; he rises with the sun and never quite sets; he is well-read but better spoken; he fully realizes his own weakness and faithlessness. Of other things, I’m less sure, like whether he’s thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, but I do feel it would be like him, especially for the cause of memorizing scripture and nearing God’s will for his life. I can only hope and pray he was once me, long before he is born and some time after I die.
Jesus told a rich young man, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But I am a weak and faithless man, so I haven’t sold my things, except to buy these hiking supplies for the way. I think of when the disciples discussed the fact that they had no bread, and Jesus said, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said, “Twelve.” He continued, “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to Him, “Seven.” And He pleaded with them, “Do you not yet understand?”
I pray I understand Him more by Maine.

One However

Soon after graduating high school, I planned a trip west from my home in Georgia to northeast Arizona, working a little in photography / videography for an author who taught at my high school. The trip sounded like a dream, but I planned poorly down to the last moment. I drove a recently purchased Toyota Prius that one might confidently bet against, but I held this maxim in my mind: the car will drive if the Lord wants it to drive, and it will stop when the Lord wants it to stop. So despite every dash light and fatal malfunction, that Prius drove the whole way, plus an exciting free-day stretch all the way to Santa Monica. And the next year, without repair, it made a further trip around the northwest, into Seattle, up around Mount Rainier, back through the redwoods all the way to Los Angeles, and home across Route 66 like the year before.Toyota Prius parked on a roadside with a forest and Mount Rainier in the background.
I hold the same faith for this journey—terrified as I am, and with all odds against me, these feet will step as far as God wants them to step, and when the good Lord decides I may walk no further, He will force me from the backcountry religion in a great divorce of sole and trail, the death of the I who is walking and the birth of the one who once walked. It will be His way.

One Whenever

Last year I had a dream I was back on the little trail near Mount Rainier between wildflowers; I heard a noise, turned to find a man-sized owl, a horse facing back down trail, and a man, void as space, who pointed to the horse and said Get on.
My walk towards Mount Katahdin began with steps backwards from The University of Georgia in Athens, where I witnessed the vanity of each breath I took to pump myself up—add words to my hypothetical diploma and positions at student organizations to my resume. I began praying every day to be less, less, less. I saw my God disassemble my college life brick by brick, step me back and back, until I backed through the campus’s front arch, repenting from walking some distance in the academics’ religion.
This erring and deceitful heart fools my melodramatic and careless mind. Both of these fleshy things never wanted to start down this trail. My mind and my heart shared an affection for my sixth floor Resident Assistant room, having a bathroom to myself and a sweet foreign cleaning lady who would sing softly while she worked, living by the dining hall that served both soul and mexican food, while nothing served my soul. I languished in the little boxes on the hillside made of ticky-tacky. When weak, my Spirit remained among friends, but strengthening made even church lonely.
Now I come to be reeducated through a new arch made of stone instead of metal, and I continue terrified; I’m terrified I’m unprepared, that it will be harder than I expected, that I’ll freeze or get tired or shatter these bones and have to go home, that I’ll have to face the embarrassment of not finishing, of having left everything behind only to prove myself weak enough to need to return. But I have felt all of those things before. It seems to my failing memory that in most of my life my feelings lied, so I trust my heart fears this trail like a child fears his father. May the way beat my body into shape, beat my mind into submission, beat my tongue into respect, beat my hands into obedience, and beat my heart into Love.


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Comments 5

  • Margaret : Mar 1st

    Praying for God’s protection, provision, and guidance for you.

  • Linds : Mar 3rd

    Thank you. You touched my heart. Nature is the true expression and meaning of god’s and the universe’s love. Safe travels. I hope you find what you seek.

  • Catto : Mar 3rd

    Soon to be college-goer here. Praying for you, and I hope you learn so much from this journey.

  • Michelle Johnson : Mar 4th

    Praying for your journey with the Lord. He will hold you fast.

  • The Kid—-Trail Name : Apr 18th

    God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise us up by his own power. 1 Corinthians 6:14.


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