It was a terrible, horrible, awful, no good day. The fault was my own.
The week before I’d been asked to join some women from our church on a “nice little hike” and lead worship for them at the waterfall. The trail was reported to be fairly easy, only three miles round trip, and would be fun.
Sure, if you’re a mountain goat!
It began with a descent to a bridge over a cool creek, but on the other side was the first of a series of steep inclines.
Last year this trail would have been no problem, but since March I’ve been mostly sedentary. Because of my job and the time I spend writing, I don’t get much exercise.
The hike was definitely not fun!
(If you want to see photos from our trip, you can visit Jan’s post:)
Sadly, I resorted to whining. My daughter, who was kind enough to slow down, had to put up with me.
“This just stinks, Beth. We finally get a chance to spend time together, and here we are trying to make it up this stupid mountain to see a waterfall. I thought this was supposed to be an easy walk. This trail seems to climb forever and ever. How much farther do we have to go? You should catch up with the others. I’m afraid I’m not good company.”
“No, it’s okay, Mom. We’ll just take our time. It can’t be much longer before we reach the group,” she said sweetly.
We rounded a bend in the trail where a plank was laid on top of a granite bench. To tell you how steep the path was, one end of the board was on the bench, the other – which extended beyond it’s edge – rested on the ground!
I sank to the seat and waited for my heart to stop pounding. A glance at the trail before us and I knew I was done. It seemed to go straight uphill.
Along the way, I’d been asking the Lord to give me strength to complete the hike. People were waiting for me to show up for worship, followed by our leader’s teaching on, of all things, endurance. I hated to let them down.
“What’s my motive for completing this hike? Is it pride? Am I worried about what the others will think? Those are lousy reasons to kill myself. Yes, I’d love to spend time in worship out here. By a waterfall would be a lovely place to sing. That part I’m all over, but Lord, I can’t do this. I’m done,” I prayed.
Out loud I said, “That’s just a stupid hill. No one in their right mind would climb that.” The trail seemed to go up at about seventy degrees.
I turned to Beth and said, “Why don’t you go ahead. I’ll wait here until the ladies return. You shouldn’t miss the view.”
Just then, Kathryn, a sweet young woman, came bouncing down the path. With a cheery lilt in her voice, she said, “There you are. I knew you couldn’t be very far away.
“Now, I know that trail looks really bad…it is very steep, but you can do this. You’ll be sorry if you don’t when you see the map and realize that you are just minutes away from the falls.”
She bounced back up the hill a bit and said, “See? This is half way. Come this far. You can do it!”
Her sweet, angelic face beamed. How could I say, “No?”
I slowly rose to my feet and began to trudge toward her. Once Beth and I stood by her side, she moved half the distance between us and the crest.
“See? It’s not so far. C’mon. You can make it.”
The sun caused Kathryn’s golden hair to shine like a halo around her cherubic face.
Before we knew it, we were at the top. We began the steep descent to the falls a few hundred feet ahead.
We arrived at the falls and I had a few minutes to tune my instrument and for someone to snap a few photos of our group. We worshiped for about fifteen minutes, then headed back to the parking lot.
I barely had a chance to even glance at the waterfall. I’m glad for the photos taken. I got to see it later!
We can learn from life’s experiences, I believe;
so I began to consider what I’d learned from our hike.
Endurance…pride will only take us so far, and no farther. Once I believed that I was as far as I could safely go, pride had to die .
To know why I am doing something is important. What’s the payoff? In this instance, I anticipated time spent in worship in a beautiful setting. This time it was more like a sacrifice of praise. I was exhausted by the time I arrived.
Perseverance…we must be people who keep their word. Jesus does this for us, and we want to be like Him. I’m sure that Gethsemane seemed a lot like that last bench on the trail. No doubt He would have preferred to sit in the garden and wait for us. Unlike Beth and I, though, His companions left Him to gut it out on His own.
Encouragement…we have opportunities to come alongside others and strengthen them. Like Kathryn, we can break up the task at hand into manageable chunks for the one who’s given up. Her good-natured suggestions, her willingness to step into my mess and give me a hand up made all the difference in the world. Had she teased me about being a sissy, or had any sort of “what’s wrong with you?” or “Everyone’s waiting for you,” kind of attitude and I would have stubbornly refused to finish the trail.
Cry out to God when all appears impossible…even for small matters. It pays off. Don’t miss His answer when she arrives in all her cheerfulness and bounce!
When the going gets tough, we must keep our mouths shut. Our complaints demoralize our traveling companions and soon they begin to agree with us. This, in turn, may cost them the beautiful destination that lies just beyond the Hill Difficult!
Oh, and one last thing…look at the map! In my case, it said right at the top of the page that this hike was “moderate to difficult.”
Some research would have better prepared me for what lie ahead. This trail is the equivalent of climbing a 94-story building. To know that in advance would have given me a different mind-set, and I would have taken a second bottle of water. All of this information was in the brochure provided. Like I said, the fault was my own.
I am very thankful that Beth didn’t get fed up with my whining and abandon me; and that Kathryn didn’t give up on me and leave me to make it on my own. In my eyes, these two are the heroines Jesus provided to rescue me!
This experience was the best example ever of God’s instruction:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
for he has no one to help him up…
…a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12b