Twisted Ankles


Have you ever been mad at yourself?

I mean really mad?

Last week, for the second year in a row I went on a four day backpacking trip with a group of guys.

These aren’t your “lets take the camper to the lake for Memorial Day weekend” campouts. These are your “take everything on your back or you don’t have it with you in the woods, no bathrooms, filter your water out of the nearest stream” campouts.  Each year we explore somewhere new and this year we headed for Red River Gorge Kentucky (about an hour Southeast of Lexington).

A lot of personal preparation goes into a trip like this. Because you have to carry everything on your back (your house, your bed, your kitchen, your food, your clothes…) you are very careful about what you take. I spent a lot of time getting ready. I also spent time training, walking area trails with a full pack to get my body used to the idea of carrying an extra 40 pounds.

After all of the preparation and a six hour drive I was excited to get started when we finally set out. We had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to hike and the things we wanted to see when we got there. The first day was great. We arrived in late afternoon, hiked about a mile and a half in and set up our first camp. The next morning we woke up, ate breakfast, struck camp and set out.

Sky Bridge rock formation in the Red River Gorge

We were hoping to cover around ten miles that day. The Red River Gorge area is beautiful, with huge rock formations, large stone arches, and beautiful streams. It is also amazingly hilly. Hilly doesn’t do the terrain justice. These are the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. The valley floors are several hundred feet below the ridge lines. Trails descend down one side of a gorge to the floor, and then ascend brutally up the other side.

The first trail of the day was a descent into one of those valleys. The trail was downhill and steep. After only ten minutes of hiking I made a mistake. I planted my foot in the wrong place and when I shifted my weight the weight of my backpack swung me around, but my foot stayed still. I twisted my ankle badly and skidded ten feet down the hill on my back.

We were literally ten minutes into the main part of the trip and I had messed things up. We hiked to the valley floor and stopped next to a beautiful stream. The beauty was lost on me as I took off my boot and massaged my throbbing foot. In that moment I knew the trip was not going to be what I had expected.

We made it five miles that day before I had to stop. My foot was killing me. Each step hurt and I knew I was doing more damage to it. We set up camp there for the night, well short of our ten-mile goal.  (That said we also realized quickly that ten miles in that terrain probably wasn’t going to happen anyway. Those hills are killer!)

The next day the decision was made to stay put, and a few of the guys went on a long day hike. (where you leave most of your gear and just take what you need for the day). I tried to join them but after 3/4 of a mile had to turn around.  I spent the rest of the day at the camp with my foot propped up on a rock reading Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker. (excellent book by the way)

I was mad at myself.

I had spent a month preparing for a trip only to mess it up.

Have you ever been mad at yourself?

How do you respond in times when you realize you have messed up?

Do you give yourself grace, or do you beat yourself up?

We all make mistakes. Some of them are relatively small. My twisted ankle only cost me a day on the trail. It was still a great day out in the woods with a good book. The following day I was well enough to hike.

Other mistakes are larger and have longer consequences. Some cost money, or marriages or jobs. I was in a parking lot recently when a few feet away a woman driving a large white pickup smashed into the side of a small sedan, leaving a good deal of damage on both vehicles. I’m sure that was not a cheap mistake to fix.

There are times we mess up and we need to ask forgiveness from the people around us or from God. But we also need to allow forgiveness from ourselves. I guess the whole point of this post is to encourage you to have some grace for yourself today. If we are going to demonstrate Reckless love to the people around us, we need to allow it for ourselves as well.