Friday, April 15, 2016 | jcrewe
As a child I used to go hiking in the mountains with my school class in Switzerland. The Swiss Alps have a worldwide reputation for their breathtaking beauty and grandeur. Most hiking trails were paved at
the foot of the mountain but quickly turned into stony paths, winding along massive formations of rock and glacier.
The higher we got the steeper was the incline. In some parts, the path was so narrow that we could walk only in single columns. On summer days, the temperature could climb to the 90's (or 30's Celsius), which was almost tolerable if it weren't for the thin air at 6,000 ft. altitude, where breathing became difficult. Joyful singing and laughter gave way to moaning and groaning as the small group of school children and teacher worked their way up the pebbly trail.
"How long do we have to walk?" - "Are we there yet?" Not quite! One more stretch, one more bend, and then one more rock to conquer. At last we arrived there...the rest area. "Five minute break!" the teacher announced to her exhausted students, giving them just enough time to relax their aching bodies and take a few sips from the water bottle. Then we were back on the trail again, huffing and puffing, wincing and cringing. "Are we there yet?" Fatigue morphed into frustration and anger. It's the teacher's entire fault! What are we doing here anyway? Can we go home? Seemingly impervious to our complaints, she urged us to move on. The peak was another hour away...
Life is a bit like mountain hiking. The pathway can be smooth but also bumpy at times. It leads through beautiful pastures but also dark valleys. Often it goes up, sometimes down. We can't go back, stop or stay; there is only one direction -- forward. We can see as far as the next bend and have to trust that the route will lead us somehow to our final destination. When things go well we are happy and upbeat; but when facing challenges, we get angry and blame everyone else except ourselves. Occasionally, we hit 'the wall' and want to give up. The psalmist might have experienced this when he asks, "I lift up my eyes to the mountains -- where does my help come from?" If he had ended here, we would suspect that the source of support was his experience, training and skills. The answer, however, lies beyond human capabilities, "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth" (Ps. 121:1-2). For him the Creator is also Sustainer of life.
Experienced mountaineers say that hiking is as much a mental as a physical sport. The body is willing to go as far as the mind wants. Will power is just as important as muscle strength. The battle of the mind is won or lost long before the body surrenders. Consequently, a hiker must train his/her mind to focus on the goal -- the summit. A mountain is conquered one thought and step at a time.
For Christian sojourners, the Apostle Paul had a similar piece of advice: "No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us" (Phil. 3:13-14). God didn't promise to make our life journey easy but to always be there when it gets rough. We will have the strength to conquer the summits of life one prayer and blessing at a time if we keep our eyes on Christ.
By Pastor Lui