So, Hiking is the thing…
I have a friend who’s taken it upon himself to help me get in shape. We hike Skinners Butte twice a week. He likes to mix it up... make me wear a 30 lb. pack some of the time. Make me run up the switchbacks. Make me carry weights out in front of me at a 90 degree angle. Make me follow him as he runs like a wild beast on and off the trail over logs and branches at a precarious angle on a steep hill at what most would probably call a normal pace—but feels like breakneck to me. Some days I tell him he’s a jerk. Some days I tell him he’s mean. At the end I always thank him.
He’s a true friend who’s taking this journey with me. I’m blessed to know him. He’s also a mentor to me. Did I mention he’s nearly 60? Yes. He is. And currently he’s kicking my butt. But… he genuinely wants to see me reach the day when I’m kicking his. And that is a large part of what makes this worthwhile. Not the chance to kick his butt—I don’t really feel the need to do that, but I believe I will eventually. It’s that he believes I will. He sees in me something beyond my somewhat flabby surface. And yes… he pushes me. But he’s gotten me to where I’m starting to push myself again. I don’t think I’d have ever gotten there without his belief in me and willingness to take on the challenge of leading me though this.
Which brings me to today.
We started out at the base of the trail and he said he’d take the pack the first trip unless I wanted to. I opted to start. It felt like I made better time than ever up to the top. It was tiring, but when we’d made our trek up, halfway down, back up steep craziness, and back to the bottom and I handed the pack over. I felt so light. For a minute I felt I could trot my way to the top. We rounded a switchback and were making our way along the familiar path when he suddenly cut the switchback and went right up the hill side. My words…? “For real?”
It was less than 30 (maybe less than 20) feet from one trail to the other, but we both jogged it. When we hit the next trail, I was spent. I thought, No way. Were not even a quarter of the way to the top and I’ve still got the half-trip down and the “stairs” (the aforementioned steep craziness). God… I can’t do this. I mean… I’m sure I can. You made with more than this… right? But my body was saying, “No. He didn’t.” and I followed up with, I’ve always just been the short game… I’ve never had a long game. I don’t really persevere .Then God told me—yes. Told me…. No. Not audibly, but still—
Persevere. That’s what I’m teaching you.
Now I have to mention, my friend was outdistancing me like nobody’s business… WITH THE PACK ON!! When I realized I was at risk of not persevering (I wanted to stop in my tracks), I was sort of startled into action.
I want to persevere!
A flash of memories—of not persevering—came to me.
I quickened my pace.
When my friend reached the next switchback, he paused a moment. I thanked him for waiting, and he turned and cut up the side of the butte. Again I thought, For REAL!?
But I followed. It was steep, but there were a great many rocks or limbs that actually made it easier to find footing, and though it was hard I was keeping up. At one point he pause to point out poison oak. I asked how can I tell. He said, “I just know.” So I said again. “How can I tell?”
His answer? “I can’t really tell you right now.” (the leaves were gone.)
I chose to trust him and avoided it. 45 seconds later we reached the next trail. We both let out a half-grunted “Whooooo!” from what we hat to exert to get there. I looked up. I knew this stretch of trail. It’s one of my favorites, because when I see it, I know we’re almost to the top. That detour had taken us from about half way to 90% there.
Sometimes I trudge that last stretch, sometimes I jog it. This time I walked and pondered.
God had really spoken to me. He used my friend as a symbol of Himself. I followed His lead. Took His challenge. Did what seemed hard (starting with the pack). Felt lighter when I reached the goal He set (pack up and back to the base). And nearly got derailed when He took me a direction I didn’t want to go. Had to pray and work thought my emotions while facing an unpleasant truth about myself.
Then He paused for me. Let my new fire catch me up the place He stood. Then He diverted again and took me up into the wild unpaved. As we went He warned me of danger. When I asked how to know if it was dangerous, he basically told me I’d just have to trust him—how very like God. I want information so I can comprehend the dangers about me. He just wants me to believe and steer clear of what will harm me—and though it was difficult, and I couldn’t avoid a loud outcry when I reached the next trail, He had taken me nearly all the way to the goal. All the trail I was dreading on that side of the butte was behind me, and I only had to follow.
When I reached the top, I had to catch my breath, but was quickly on my way again and sharing with my friend what God had just done.
I did have to trudge the last stretch of the “stairs” (at that point there is nothing that resembles a stair), but up top I had the energy to jog to catch up with my friend and jog part way down. When we reached the bottom, it was pushup time. And I did the thing I was afraid to; I did those pushups wearing the 30 lb pack. I did fewer than I do without the pack, but more than I thought I could. And… I actually persevered :o)
I share all this because I am always amazed by the ways God speaks. Today it was the trail… and my friend—who sort of stood in and unwittingly symbolized God. Not that God needs a stand in, but sometimes…. He does that that just for us.