Last week I posted the first two poems in a series of six, each poem in the series speaking to a different aspect of walking with God, heeding His call, and choosing to journey on, even when the way is hard. This Monday and Wednesday I will post the next two poems and provide a few questions for you to ponder through prayer with pen and paper in your hand or simply in your heart. My prayer is that each of us is encouraged and strengthened in the journey God has called us to walk, up His paths, in His ways, ascending His mountain, straight to His heart and eternal home, even on, and especially on, mundane Monday mornings.
In the first two poems, we started the journey of ascension, of learning how to walk when all of life is weary. So much of beginning the climb is getting over fears of perfection and performance and having the courage to just start walking, no matter how perfect or imperfect your circumstances seem. And no matter how significant or insignificant you feel in your role throughout the day, knowing that God has called you, YOU, to walk with Him, right where you are, as you are.
But this week is about the actual climb. And how hard it often is.
I love to hike. There isn’t a better feeling to me than the steady climb up a mountain, breathing in mountain air with mountain scenery all around. It’s always a time when I can soak in God’s majesty while sorting out my thoughts as I pace my steps. I learned a long time ago, too, that hiking with my husband isn’t a chance to “catch up” on what’s been going on in life. Hiking with him means putting your ear phones in, keeping your head down, and going as hard as you can as fast as you can the whole way up the mountain. With such a great pace setter in front of me, the crowds at the base or in the car park thin out, and the trail provides incredible time to reflect and let the Spirit of God speak to my heart through the Word of God in meditation, worship, and prayer.
But somewhere in the joy of the walk, there always comes a point on every climb when I think: “I cannot go another step. Cannot.” My legs burn right along with my lungs and every step takes major effort.
I took our oldest daughter Lillian on her first hike up Bald Mountain in Ketchum, Idaho this summer. It is one of Jason and my favorite climbs to do every summer we are there, and I have been looking forward to the day when our children would be able to hike it with us. The hike is 5.4 miles from base to peak, and it’s pretty much an uphill climb the whole way. Jason promised Lillian a new pair of chacos like her cousin’s and a Dr. Pepper if she made it to the top, so the Dr. Pepper sealed the deal and off we went. Two hours and fifty-five minutes later, we finished. The last mile and a half, I literally thought I was going to have to drag her up the rest of the way.
Maybe some of you can relate to Lillian’s end of the trail shuffle – IMG_4445
But she did it. She made it. And so much of it had to do with the fact that she knew she had a traveling companion who wasn’t going to leave her by the side of the trail. She made it because I knew where the good rest stops were, and when we came to one, we stopped, drank, and waited until she caught her breath. She made it because I made sure we started out with an ample water supply. She made it because I knew she would need snacks along the way to give her legs and body energy, and I knew how to tell her to keep her body nourished. She made it because I had been up that mountain many times before and knew the way and was there to point out the correct path, telling her which way to go when there was a fork in the road. She made it because to keep her mind occupied off of the ascent of the path, we played more rounds of “Ask-me-20-questions-to-guess-who-I-am-thinking-of” than I can count and guessed a wide range of people from Johnny Cash to her cousin Seth.
When we climb, and the trail is hard, and we cannot see the summit, and our legs want to give way, we don’t make it to the top by heading back down the mountain the first moment things are hard and the trail is steep. We don’t make it to the top by refusing to rest and drink water along the way. And we don’t make it to the top by thinking we can climb by ourselves. We make it to the top by listening to our traveling companion. The mountain we are climbing, after all, is His mountain (Isaiah 2:1-4). The path we are ascending is His way. He knows every fork in the road, every spot to make sure we rest and have enough water; He knows how to prepare for storms that roll in quickly and descend, and He knows how to make our footsteps firm.
I cannot promise you that the way up the mountain will be easy, and I cannot promise you that you will not want to turn around many time during the climb and head back down the trail. But I can promise you when you journey with the Lord, He will not slumber or sleep, He will not let your steps falter, and He will not leave you by the way.
So wherever you are on your climb today, stop to find rest underneath a shady spot, read this next poem, “Climbing,” and then ask yourself the three questions that follow.
The garments cling
The sweat, it drips
My legs burn with every step
Weary-worn and tired of speaking
I stop for a moment to pause…and rest…
The valley teems with life below
Those who have chosen to stay beneath
The mountain is lonely, the paths are ancient
Is what I am doing insanity?
But the view, oh, it is breath-taking
Peaks and valleys, snow-capped ridge
Silent is the sacred journey
My heart, it sings
The songs You give.
- Where are you in your climb today? Are you enjoying the walk and the challenge in front of you? Or are you weary with each and every step, in need of a rest? Be honest with the Lord about where you are today.
- Have you been relying on yourself to get yourself up the mountain, or are you trusting in and relying upon your traveling companion? Are you tightly clutching the map in one hand, lost and anxiously trying to figure out directions? Is your mouth bone dry and has your water supply run out, leaving you in deep need of a drink? Or are you lonely, in need of someone to walk alongside you and take your mind off of the ascent? Again, be honest before the Lord about your specific needs for a traveling companion who knows the way, holds all direction, water, and nourishment in His Hands, and is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Then receive the answer He provides in the Person and Spirit of Jesus, the Shepherd, Guardian, Savior, and Traveling Companion of your soul.
- Slowly read through the words of Psalm 23:1-6 today, and pray them back to the Lord as you trust Him as Shepherd of your soul, no matter phase of the journey you are in: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
For encouragement in your climb, don’t forget to check back in on Wednesday for the fourth poem in this series of six. You can connect with me on Facebook, as well, throughout the week.