Rob and I just got back from an island off the coast of Cambodia called Koh Rahn. The beach they drop you at is similar to many in Thailand and other countries. There’s a row of beach-front cafe’s and guesthouses right on the sand. We were told there was a 7km long beach through the woods somewhere on another side of the island. One of the locals told us where it the trail started, so the second day we headed out. We figured we’d walk one way and get a boat taxi back if we didn’t want to do it twice. We didn’t pay much attention to the sign that said something like, “follow the flip flops and red dots.”
It started with a steep climb out the back of the village in the blazing sun. It’s a whole new level of hot over here. It makes 90 degrees in Chicago seem like the cool of spring. At the top of the first hill, there was a flip flop pointed to the left nailed to a post with a red dot. Perfect. I guess go the direction it’s pointing? A minute or so later, at another fork, we met a guy coming back toward us proclaiming, “I don’t think it’s that way?” So on we marched, the three of us down the alternative path. Eventually we came to a man and a woman with a small child going the same direction. How bad can it be if they’re taking their kid over there? We passed them and picked up the pace a little. Back to just Rob and I. We kept seeing flip flops here and there, but there were some blue dots now. “Did the sign say blue? or was it red?” I felt certain it said red until there were only blue dots, then I wasn’t sure. The trail was getting more and more overgrown.
Clearly this isn’t the trail.. or is it? Rob said he heard reports of a rope to climb down one part of it. Maybe this IS it. Let’s just keep going. Then came the cliff. After standing there evaluating it, discussing going back to the last turn, down we climbed. At the bottom we agreed we weren’t going back no matter what. After all, we’d hit the water eventually even if we were off the path. It was a path, just not the one with the flip flops… or the dots… no blue, no red.
Rob was in front and his sandals were sliding all over the place from sweat. By this point the, “Do you think it goes this way or that way?” discussion happened about every 30 feet. I was thinking about 2 things. First, I hoped his flip flops held out because it would be gnarly doing this barefoot. Second, pictures on the card reading “Venomous snakes of Cambodia” I looked at on a table at a restaurant the day before were running through my mind. What were they again? The Malaysian Viper, the Cobra. Yea, there was even a spotted one called the Krait. You probably wouldn’t feel too good if you got nailed in the leg by one of those bad boys. Well, keep your eyes open and march on.
I guess we should have read the sign more carefully. Maybe staying with the others would have been good. Well, no point worrying about that stuff now. Just keep climbing down and look for snakes. Now I was out front and had a little momentum going from the grade and all at once, I stumbled out of the woods onto this clear trail in front of a row of bungalows. “Good news, Rob!” I shouted back.
About 3 minutes later we were sitting at a little cafe in the woods next to the beach where the “real” trail let out.
As we sat there sweating bullets, drinking water, getting eaten alive by mosquitos, the people we passed earlier came out. Funny thing was, now that we were all there, it didn’t really matter about the dots, the sign, path, the challenges, or who got there first.
Following Jesus is like that I think.
Am I on the right path? Should it be this hard? What about those other people? Do they have it easier? Have I misread the signs?
I personally think when life is over, we might talk about the challenges, but I doubt for long. The destination will dwarf the difficulties.
“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.”