Monday, July 14, 2014

Keep on Walking

"Keep walking with Me along the path I have chosen for you.  Your desire to live close to me is a delight to My heart.  I could instantly grant you the spiritual riches you desire, but that is not My way for you.  Together we will forge a pathway up the high mountain.  The journey is arduous at times, and you are weak.  Someday you will dance light-footed on the high peaks; bur for now, your walk is often plodding and heavy.  All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction.  Though the path is difficult and the scenery dull at the moment, there are sparkling surprises just around the bend.  Stay on the path I have selected for you.  It is truly the path of Life." -Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

What an amazing thought to start the day with.  This was my morning devotional today.  As Anne and I prepared to begin our day on South Mountain, I thought about the encouragement that this devotion provided.  I have only a few days left on this amazing journey.  At times I feel run down and tired, but here is this incredible affirmation that all I need to do is take the next step and God will take care of the rest.  There have been quite a few days that this has been what has kept me going.

Last Friday was a day alone on the trail, and it was a difficult day.  Before setting out that morning, I prayed that when the going got tough, God would give me the strength to carry on.  That day was an amazing day; one where I leaned entirely on God's provision and grace.  I spent the entire day meditating on the scriptures, taking in the beauty of God's creation and singing.  Though I had no human companions that day, my best friend walked along beside me whispering encouragements and giving me the strength to keep on going.  It was one of the best days that I had had on the trail; one where I really was able to quiet my mind and just listen.

I drank in these words, shared them with Anne, and together we ascended Second Mountain.  It was overcast and threatened rain at any moment.  We had endured a couple of storms on Sunday night and were hoping that the weather would hold until we finished our ten mile journey.  We came to Chimney Rocks around mid-morning and drank in the views and awesome rock formations.  After an extended break we continued southward descending to the Old Forge picnic grounds, where we stopped for lunch before continuing on.  While we were stopped, we had a message from Scott that there were heavy storms heading our way.  It did indeed begin to rain while we were stopped, but there wasn't any indication of thunder or lightning yet.  We decided to make
haste and press on to try and finish the day before the storms got to where we were.  We walked for about 10 minutes and then the rain began in earnest.  Thunder was rumbling and we were walking on rocky ground up the mountain once more.  After about half an hour of walking in the storm, the rain continued but the sun began to shine.  We walked on in awe of how the sunlight and rain danced in the forest making the surfaces of leaves rocks and trees glisten.  It was beautiful.  One of those sparkling surprises waiting around the corner!  After a while, the rain stopped and we removed our rain gear.  We took extra care as not to slip on the now wet rocks.  As we began our final descent for the day, we began to hear thunder once more.  We were so close to our goal, we didn't bother to stop and don our rain gear this time but tried instead to outrun it.  This time we were successful.  We reached the road just as Scott was pulling up (he'd been tracking us via GPS most of the afternoon), and then the heavens opened.  Talking about timing!
As I've continued to think on the words from this devotional, I realize that often times life can seem mundane and dull.  We wonder if this is all there really is to life.  We wonder if there is any real purpose to this seemingly dull existance.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, we're caught by surprise and find that we're on a mountain top.  These spiritual highs are often far and few betwen, but may be less so when we pay closer attention to the details; for God is surely in the details!

Something I've learned a lot about over this past month is how dreary the climb up to the mountaintop can be.  Often times, it seems as though you'll never make it to the top.  The hill stretched before you seems to go on forever.  You turn a corner and think "I've finally made it!" only to find that that turn just led you to another series of switchbacks that need to be traversed before you will reach the top.  Often times, I've found that in these moments when I'm most discouraged and tired, I stop and take a break just before reaching the incredible vista that God had waiting for me.  In fact, almost like clockwork, I will give in less than 200 yards before reaching that point. In realizing this, I told Anne prior to starting out today, "if I say we can't be too far from point x, y, or z but I'm ready for a break, make me walk 200 yards more!"  The final moments before reaching the mountaintop experiences are often times the most emotionally and spiritually taxing.  You're exhausted, tired of carrying the load, tired of the monatony of the task, but God asks us to just take one more step; then another; and another; allowing him to lead you by the hand.

At last, when we think we've given all we've got, and we've got nothing left, we take just one more step and find ourselves on top of a mountain, looking into a valley that we've never seen before.  It's beauty is beyond anything that we could imagine.  The weight of our load, the burden of the journey is eclipsed by the awesome beauty of God's creation.  The mundane task is forgotten and the sparkling surprise embraced.

It saddens me to think, though, how many times people, like I often do, give in just before they reach the mountain top.  Each time that it's happened along the trail, I've still taken time to observe the beauty before me; taken a second break to drink it in, but I often wonder how many times we turn back discouraged and never see the sparkling surprises that God had waiting for us just around the corner.  This is where the body of Christ is so important, because it is through the encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ that we can find the strength to finish the race that has been set before us.  It is the body of Christ who can help to give us that extra shove to go that last 200 yards along the path so that we don't miss the sparkling surprise that God has in store for us.

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11