“I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
Invariably, the roughest places precede surprising joys.
My husband Bill and I traveled to the Swiss alps this summer to celebrate our 40th anniversary and marveled at the spectacular peaks still coated in snow as we traversed the countryside on spotless trains with their perfectly synchronized schedules. On most days we filled up water bottles, smeared sun block across our face and arms, and ventured out to be continually awed by the grandeur of the mountains and the lush, vibrant valleys between.
Rippling white-water river beds, dramatic waterfalls cascading down rugged cliffs, and acres of multi-colored wild flowers welcomed us at every turn. Some of the trails were simply delightful, and placing one foot in front of the other took little energy or concentration. Others not so much.
One hike in particular proved especially challenging. We had traveled by train and then two separate gondolas up to the top of the Schilthorn peak with its elevation of 10,000 feet. After lunch, I thought it a good idea to join our group on foot for the journey back down toward our charming village of Murren. The narrow path was strewn with rocks, the angle of the descent steep, the altitude far different from the flatlands of our Florida home. I carefully positioned my feet so as not to tumble down or crack an ankle along the way. At times I came close to losing my balance, and at other times barely kept pace with the others who scampered down the slopes as if they had been retrofitted with hooves for the occasion.
The last part of the adventure involved climbing two steep inclines when I had a scarce amount of battery life left, and the only sound I heard was my heart galloping at full speed. I lowered my head, ceased all conversation, and forced myself to place one sneaker in front of the other. As long as I only stared at the next patch of ground before me and avoided the urge to glance up at the steep road, I was able to make it across the finish line.
I quickly found a bench, plopped myself down, and heaved a sigh. As we waited for the final gondola to return us safely to our little village, a couple thoughts made their way through my exhaustion. Our group had just experienced picturesque, almost indescribable panoramic views which encircled us within their jagged arms. Icy blue lakes formed by melted glaciers waved to us in the distance. The only way we experienced any of this magical splendor was by traveling along a rugged terrain far outside our comfort zone. It took a bit of risk and determination to encounter all those rewarding vistas. Had we stayed behind, it would have been easier getting home, but a far less amazing adventure.
The beauty was magnified exponentially because of the effort involved.
The Lord longs to give us his very best. Often it comes at great cost. To be timid and slink back from what he has in store is undoubtedly the safer route, but imagine all the breathtaking, fulfilling swaths of life we would miss. He is still the perfect source of sufficient grace and courage to endure that next challenging climb. Who knows the incredible joys that are just ahead, a little down the course, and over that next challenging peak in view.
Elizabeth A Mitchell
Photo Credit: Bill Mitchell
(One the road. Audio recording not possible this week!)