We went on a company retreat last week and one of our team building activities was hiking the Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area. As I look back on our hike to Turtle Head’s Peak, I realize just how much our lives can mimic the mountains and valleys that surrounded us.
I stood there looking at the top of the mountain with ambition. It was so clean. No trees. Just a perfect silhouette against a clear blue sky. I took a deep breath and started off with a quick stride. Every now and then my feet would slip on the loose rock, but I kept up the pace.Just like in life, when things seem to be going well something so small can bring you down.
Every now and then there is a slippery slope on the trail, the portable heater quits working or a stomach bug brings the kids home from school early, but nothing that really slows down the pace. The air is fresh, the sky is clear, all is well in the world. But life is not like that at all. Before you can get to the peak you must hike steep slopes, climb sharp rocks, decide to go the long way around a boulder or climb down into a large ravine only to be exhausted and have to climb out on the other side.
We physically reached the top of Turtle Head Peak on our hike, but in my life: I am in the ravine. I am exhausted, I am almost near the top but I still have a long way to go. I want to stop and go back and I am growing weary. I'm not sure I can make it. The top seems so far away now. The Devil is whispering in my ear that I am a failure, that it’s ok to turn around. I stop and pray. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.
This is a my journey. I must continue. I refuse to give up. God has placed angels, friends, around me to keep me going. So, I do. My slopes, loose gravel and sharp rocks consist of job loss, food stamp applications and unemployment. My husband just lost his 3rd job in 2 years. That may not seem so bad, but just when we have caught up (passed a boulder), paid off late fees (picked up the pace) and made some headway (we can see the ridge to the mountain top), WE COME TO THE RAVINE. I look into the darkness of the shadows. It makes me dizzy. I take a deep breath and pray. This time feels different. I have climbed out of these things before. I look at it, plan my way out of it, place my hand on stable rock, pray and breathe. “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Psalm 18:2.
I am climbing out. I know the mountain top is just over the next hand hold. I have learned from past obstacles on the hike that the bush is dry rotted and will break when you grip it. I have learned to watch where I place my foot. So I place my foot on solid rock just beneath the sand and tiny pebbles that are trying to pull me down. I stop to look back at how far I have come, take in the beautiful imagery that God created. He is in control. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27.
I am doing this! It is hard to enjoy the view when you are in a ravine but sometimes you have to lift your head up just enough to look around and see that God has created all of this. He knows how to get you out. He can see the whole mountain (peaks and valleys, good times and bad ones), He knows the plan. And I know that God has planned every step of the way. Even the ravines.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11. Whatever you are going through, whether you are in a valley, or climbing over a boulder, know that God has planned every single step out for YOU. He knows exactly where you came from and where you are going. He knows when you are tired and don't think you will make it. Cast all your worries on Him, He cares for you. And keep going to the top!