Back in my early days as a believer, I read the book “Hinds Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard. An allegorical story of a young woman and her journey of faith, it is a story that reminds us that, as believers, our journey to maturity in faith is often accompanied by sorry and suffering – yet it is precisely those things in life which cause us to realize our need for, and true home in the Shepherd of our souls. It’s based on verse 3:19 in Habakkuk:
“The Sovreign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights”
I am sure the book had a deer on it, but in my head it looked more like the mountain goat pictured above.
Yesterday a few from my hiking group and I went to climb yet another 14r – Mt. Evans. On the way there I was talking with one of the ladies who is also divorced, and was sharing how much God had taken care of her over the years when things were ugly and hard and she was scared, raising three young boys by herself. Although our stories are vastly different, we both shared the commonality of tackling mountains to conquer our fears. Seeing as how she has hiked probably more 14rs than I can count, to hear that she was scared the first time gave me courage.
For those of you who have never hiked a 14r, and maybe wonder what they are like – they vary based on starting elevation, distance to the summit, and type of ground you cover. Some start you in the forest, some you start above tree line. Inevitably at the top you are always traversing rocks of some kind, whether big boulders that are pretty fixed, or smaller ones that move with your every step.
Stories of hikers who have died (being stupid taking pictures on razorback ridges), combined with a friend who died rock climbing when Jon and I were in our 20’s, has sat in the back of my mind as I have hiked my first two 14rs. I am keenly aware of how stable I need to be, how cautious my footsteps have to be calculated. Rest assured, its not like one wrong step would make me fall off the mountain or anything! Trails are well marked by cairns, and we are never alone.
On Mt. Evans, the last 1000 feet are huge boulders. I had to rely on watching the footsteps of others, as well as listen to the advice of seasoned climbers, to know where and how to get through the rock field. You would think you go up one and down another – but no! You walk on top of them. “Trust your boots, they’ll grip” they kept telling me… and after two 14rs now I am realizing they do indeed allow me to walk on the rocks without slipping. I think yesterday I probably looked more confident than I was, but my “scrambling” was less clinging to them and more hopping from one to another with ease.
Make no mistake – my inner dialogue was still “take it slow, look for the cairn (a stack of rocks marking the path), head there, look for the trail where others have gone. Trust your boots. You got this.”
Just as I was hitting the spot that looked the hardest, we saw some other hikers pausing, holding their dogs in check. Why? When I looked up, I could see the mountain goats looking down at us from the rocks above. It was…stunning. And spiritual in a way that brought tears to my eyes. Why, you ask, other than the really cool fact that I was face to face with a mountain goat.. on a MOUNTAIN????!!!
You see, God keeps showing up for me in the strangest of places, reminding me who He is and that He fills my whole life. I know this, yet it blows me away every time. Yesterday was no different… and it added another voice to my innner dialogue. That kind of inner knowing where peace takes over and you can look back at your circumstances without fear.
The more I thought about it as we took our pictures and headed down off the mountain, the more I thought how my inner dialogue had its own spiritual parallel:
In the life of faith, there is no question that you will face boulders, and you might even lose your way as you navigate them.
But like a cairn on a 14r, there are markers that can help you find your way back. Sometimes they are people that lovingly come along side you to remind you God hasn’t abandoned you. A good friend that just won’t let you hide. They might be a song, something you see in a movie or TV show, or a post on Instagram…. but they shine some light on the trail that’s been hard to see.
Like good hiking boots that grip the boulders, when you lift your head up, you find that the core things you have found in God are still true. People may have disappointed you, situations may be taking the wind out of your sails, but God is still faithful to see you through. His love doesn’t fail. He won’t abandon you. You are forgiven. And He is bigger than you understand right now.
Holding onto those truths sometimes are like the grips that keep faith from falling completely. Yet even when it does, I know He still won’t let go of you. You can get to the top of the mountain… and when you do, let the truth of it sink in. You’ll climb the next one with a lot more confidence.