What a difference a week makes.
My Sabbath Hike last weekend was delightfully easy. It was nine miles of strolling across a flat mesa east of Flagstaff, with plenty of shade and cool breezes – not much of a physical challenge at all, but lots of good prayer time.
Two days ago, on Mingus Mountain east of our town, it was … well, let’s just say it was “more hike than Sabbath.” I should have seen it coming – on the topographical map that I was following (see the pic), the closer the lines, the steeper the slope. And if that weren’t enough, you would think the presence of a Hang Glider Launch would have made me realize that there was a cliff involved. But by the time I had completed the loop out Trail 105 and back on Trail 106, I had descended and then climbed over 1500 feet in seven miles in the hot sun, and I was a wreck. My prayer over the final two miles was limited to “Lord, how much further?”
I can’t say that the time I spent with God on that hike was particularly intimate or inspiring. But it did give me the chance to reflect on some principles to follow when the path is steep.
Steep paths come in many forms. I’ve walked several of them, and you probably have as well. Grief is a steep path. Illness is a steep path. Job problems, relational issues, financial stress, all create challenges as we walk through them. I did come away from this hard hike with some ideas for how I hope to walk those hard paths in the future.
- Rest more
I didn’t need to rest on the mesa, but failure to rest on the mountain might have been tragic. I’ve learned that busy-ness is one of the traps of the steep paths in my life. It seems like there is so much to do that I don’t have time to let down. But in reality, the level of activity in such moments is often more frantic than productive. Now that I know the importance of the rest that Jesus promises in Matthew 11:28, I hope to discipline myself to seek it even when my life is hard. ESPECIALLY when my life is hard.
- Hydrate more
An easy hike makes very little dent in my camelback water reservoir, but I drank most of it on the mountain. I needed it. In the same way, I need the refreshment of God’s word on hard days, but for some reason that commitment is often the first to go. Like the failure to rest, my failure to refresh myself in the green pastures and still waters of Psalm 23 makes those days even more difficult. I hope I’ve learned to cling to that commitment on the steep paths.
- Lean more
I barely needed my walking stick on the mesa – in fact, it was perched on my shoulder part of the time. But it was a crucial tool on the mountain. It saved me from several faceplants as rocks turned under my feet or my boots slid on steep gravel. It became my support when I stopped for a breather. Proverbs 3 warns me to not lean on my own understanding, and the writer of Psalm 71 says that he leaned on God from before his birth. I want to take those ideas to heart when my path is steep, leaning on God and what I know to be true of Him.
I’m glad that the pain of that hike (yes, there was/is pain) wasn’t totally wasted, and I hope that by writing down these ideas, I’ll be more likely to live by them.
And I’m glad that God speaks through the steep paths too. Because life is not always a shady mesa.
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