I was so excited; a nice hike, much-needed exercise, and new friends to meet. It was a perfect, crisp
Sunday morning activity. In addition to the physical exhilaration this hike would prove, I planned to do some serious soul-searching, the mountain being the perfect venue.
I arrived at the meeting place, connected with all of the hikers and off we went. The hike was 8 miles and I was up for the challenge. As I recall, I had not hiked 8 miles before, and if I had, it certainly was not up a steep mountain.
Two minutes into the hike dashed all of my ambition. I did not truly realize what I was getting myself into. Everyone around me was obviously experienced, me on the other hand, simply saw a great opportunity and jumped right in. Little did I know that there was much more to an intermediate hike than just 'jumping in.' This adventure would teach me more than I expected to learn.
At every plateau, I needed to stop and catch my breath. I needed to rest my feet and calves. I needed to refresh. I felt completely out of my league, but at every step I was being constantly filled with more and more adrenaline.
Luckily, there were hikers present that patiently waited for the inexperienced, wanna-be mountain climber to catch up. I never felt inept, just unskilled to keep up with the pace at which the group was moving. I had this strange sense of determination, however. No matter how long it took, I purposed to finish the trek. Sore, tired, and last were not deterrents for me to turn back. My body wanted to give up. There were moments when I thought I could not take one more step, that every inch of energy had been exhausted, but on I went.
As I was on the trail, I began to think of the journey to heaven. The Lord placed before me the difficulty of the race, but I was determined to continue, no matter what. I thought about those on the mountain who would encourage me along the way. These trackers reminded me of angels. They patiently waited. Their mouths displayed smiles, not frowns, cheers, not censures.
As I ascended the mountain I realized the parallel with the Christian race. Higher and still high, Christ
bids us come. The pilgrims journey is not a flat trail but an incline. Everyday we should see advancements and victories. We should not be rounding the same bend year after year.
It occurred to me that this particular hike I chose afforded one goal and that was to make it to the end which I purpose to do. And so it is with my journey with the Lord. I must not give up. Though rugged the way, though seemingly slow the progress, though the tiredness comes in like a flood, I must keep going.
By the time I finished the hike, every muscle in my body ached and I felt like jello, but I made it! I was only able to express excitement in my heart, for that was the only muscle that did not sting. I could not even express my joy in words, but it certainly filled my soul.
I imagine this is what making it to heaven will feel like, an overwhelming sense of jubilation and elation.
I am reminded of a poem in the well-known allegory by John Bunyan entitled Pilgrim's Progress where Christian pinned words about the Hill of Difficulty that was just before him:
"This hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend,
For I perceive the way to life lies here:
Come, pluck up, heart, let's neither faint nor fear!
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe."
And so it is on this pilgrim's journey, tough, steep, strenuous, but oh, so worth it in the end.