The Uphill Climb

I was a mid-western girl for almost 40 years, and I never met a lake I didn’t love. But then my family moved to the Southwest, with lots of sand, very little water, and a mountain view from my window. If I can’t look at a lake, I suppose a mountain is a fair trade.

After living here a while, I learned that hiking to the top of mountains is a thing. Basically if you live in place that has mountains instead of hills, people spend lots of their time hiking near, in, around and UP them. Yes, I said up.

Every day that mountain taunted me from my window, so early on I determined to be one of those people who would hike to the top someday. After 3 years, someday came. All I could think of was how amazing it would feel to reach the crest, with wide-open expanses of land as far as my eye could see, taking in the captivating vistas!

In my mind it was majestic, brilliant and thrilling.

But then I actually had to do the hiking part.

The day dawned with skies as blue as the ocean, and crisp, fall air filled our lungs with courage. We chose our route to the top and our map showed it as 7 miles start to finish. We had trained a bit and I walk 3.5 miles several times a week. How hard could it be?

Several hours into my “I have a dream” hike, our GPS showed 5 miles. I was optimistic, only two miles to go! We pressed on. As we inched closer to mile 6.5, I gained momentum, my adrenaline started pumping and I prepared to start the final ascent. I checked the GPS every few minutes, and though the tenths of miles ticked by, I was no closer to that glorious finish.

Soon we were at mile 7. Then well past 7 miles—no end in sight.

As we approached mile 8 it was clear we weren’t steps away from a breathtaking finish. Defeat and anger had long since set in. My legs felt like lead, and I lost my footing every few steps. Oh how I longed for the solid ground at the peak! If it hadn’t meant hiking 8 miles back the way I’d come, I might have quit.

I wondered, “Will I ever reach the top of this mountain?”

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there.

Whether it’s your life, job or family situation, your current circumstance may not be what you thought it would be. You might be in that place where the only choice you have is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how frustrating, painful or difficult it is. You long for a better, brighter tomorrow. You long to be finished. You long for solid ground.

You may even wonder, “How did I end up here?

What I learned that day on the mountain is something I could never learn by just looking at the mountain from my bedroom window:

The only way to get to the top is by taking a multitude of small steps.

Some are arduous. Some are joyful. Some feel like more of a stumble than a step. The truth is, the upward climb will be fierce, but it’s impossible to get to the peak without going through the valleys along the way. And life isn’t just a series of destinations; it’s a series of long, slow walks that take you where you’re headed.

If we take our eyes off what’s right in front of us, we might never reach the pinnacle.

If we spend too much time looking up, we can lose our footing, fall or get hurt. However by taking one step at a time, we will inevitably reach our destination.

To be successful, we need to be well equipped.

I would never hike to the top of the mountain without water, food, and proper attire.  Just like hiking shoes are essential for the climb, we in turn, cannot do life without the right tools for the journey.

One of my life tools is God’s word. Every step I take, whether victorious or painful, is made richer when I’m laden with life-giving truth. And especially when I face challenges, I need to remind myself who orders my every step and who will hold me up when I feel like giving up.

Psalm 121:1-2 says:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”

We finally reached the peak after 9.2 miles and seven hours. No GPS could have prepared me for how hard the climb would be (or apparently give me an accurate distance!) But if I hadn’t pressed on, even when it was excruciating, I would not have experienced the thrill of sitting on a rock at 10,679 feet soaking in the breathtaking 360-degree view.

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Nothing can prepare you for the joy you will experience when you finally traverse your “mountain.” When you do, you will be able to see far and wide. And in that glorious moment, you might forget just how hard it was to get there.

Sarah Beckman inspires people from the stage and on the page. She is the bestselling author of Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving your Neighbor in their Time of Trial, which is filled with practical tools to love people well in the rough patches of life. Sarah speaks to audiences across the country on topics such as loving your neighbor, sharing your faith, safeguarding your marriage and digging up your talents.

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