After staying back from many excursions through the years to carry and tend to our babies, I recently got to experience a trip I have longed to take with Kevin, my husband, and older kids. A group of us went backpacking in the Rockies. It was just 3 days and 7 miles per day for me, but nothing makes a 46 year old woman feel older than trying to hike a mountain.
First I will say I am a Christian, and as I hiked the Continental Divide Trail with several in my family, I couldn't help but spend time gathering lessons in my head about how this little journey translated into lessons in my spiritual journey as well.
I came up with seven. Here they are in no particular order.
When the trail is steep, take it one step at a time. Looking too far ahead can be discouraging, so go one step at a time.
When our journey looms too steep and we focus on the impossibilities ahead, that is faithless. Especially in difficult terrain, our faith can be best demonstrated by simply putting one foot in front of the other and not quitting. So if you must, look down. But let it be with trust that God will carry your next step…and your next…and you next until you arrive.
Remember the path is narrow.
All of the digging in and climbing of ascents will bring you to some breathtaking views. Above the treeline, you can see for miles in every direction. You will not believe you made it this far. It’s surreal! No photo can capture the beauty. No words can express the exhilaration you feel. But you are still on a trail. And you should not forget that.
Remember the path is narrow and few travel there. If you think you have arrived and can fully embrace the mountaintop, beware. Be careful on the mountaintop to give glory to God who brought you there and to keep to humble trail that will lead you home.
Take time to celebrate the gains.
Having qualified the dangers of the mountaintop, once you do arrive, by all means CELEBRATE! Take the photos, document the journey, celebrate the accomplishment, make memorial stones. Give praise and thanks to God!!
Be inspired by other’s journeys.
There were a couple of women who I fixed my mind on when the going got rough for me. One was an inspirational woman I met recently named Billie Anne. She lost 100 lbs hiking mountains over the past 18 months! Wow! The other was a 68 year old legend of a woman who hiked the Appalachian Trail 11 times in her later years.
Additionally I thought of friends who have run marathons and beyond who have inspired me. Above all, I focused on “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “though I stumble 7 times, 7 times I will rise”.
Whose example in real life motivates me to do challenging things and press on?
Be faithful in your pace.
There were 9 of us on the trail. Quite an unusual sight for such a solo kind of adventure like backpacking. Our group members seemed to find each one’s pace and place in line. There were nimble scouts and natural leads, there were supportive ones offering strength from the rear, there were joyful ones and encouraging ones. And sometimes defeated, tearful ones.
Feeling strong at one point I set out after the fast pack, but quickly found myself discouraged as they outpaced my best by a long shot. No way to keep up, I began to wane. On top of that I did not feel strong enough to lead the next pack. So I found my pace best by following directly behind one of our steady hikers. I could be faithful there.
It reminded me to be faithful in my pace and season. It may look different than it used to or it may not be exactly as I desire, but faithfulness where I am brings great gains and its own kind of joy.
Rain will come; expect it.
Rain is often a blessing, but there are times when a dry sky would bless more from our perspective. Though we prayed for clear skies, it still rained each day at 4pm. So we used our rain gear and pack covers and had to set up camp in downpours, even though it is not what we desired.
Likewise we are not promised rain will not fall in our own spiritual journeys. Rain can make the flowers grow or flood the riverbed, it comes and goes as God sees fit. It may be inconvenient and even pose a problem to our plans, but God is still Lord of it all. We should expect rain clouds and we should also expect God will see us through.
A song will cheer you.
On our last 3 miles of the last day, we had a dreaded ascent for 1.5 miles (laughable small for some). One in our group began to sing a marching hymn and repeated it for the next hour! It made our burden significantly lighter and passed the time so much more quickly. We were very thankful.
Whatever we are doing in our work at home and elsewhere, may a song cheer us. Worship to God is an ascent in itself. It lifts us higher when we cannot lift ourselves.
The Bible calls the Christian life a journey. If that resonates with you too, press on in faith and prayer toward the upward call of Christ Jesus.