“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.” (Psalm 91:14)
On our recent trip to Israel our tour guide led us to Masada, the largest of Herod the Great’s eight fortresses. This ancient mountaintop stronghold in southeastern area of Israel had been the site of the Jews’ last stand against their enemies the Romans after Jerusalem fell in 70 AD. I had seen Masada many times before but always arrived there within the safety of a sturdy gondola that whisked me to its summit with ease.
Not this time.
For this visit I decided instead to walk up the two kilometer steep incline with my husband Bill and a band of physically fit friends who, I would discover on the trail, were all retrofitted with gazelle legs and mountain goat hooves. The trek was much harder than I anticipated. With rocky pebbles and thousands of steps at my feet, the blazing sun overhead, and a panoramic view of the Jordanian wilderness all around, I finally reached the top. After my heart stopped galloping and my lungs no longer gasped for want of air, I journaled an insight captured along the way.
My companions proved to be incredibly gracious as they flew up the vertical slopes with hardly a break between strides. For one thing, my husband slowed his pace noticeably so as not to leave me behind. Although he had climbed Masada previously and could have scaled it briskly now, he didn’t. Bill was always close, either by my side or just a few steps ahead, matching his steps to mine. Patiently, he reassured me of my progress, commending me for attempting this grueling adventure rather than the easier route.
My traveling companions were equally kind. From their vantage point above me they sent back words of encouragement. “It’s just a little further now…You are almost there…Keep going…There’s a flat stretch up ahead.” When I finally reached the top, they greeted me with applause suitable for a gold medal contender!
I climbed a mountain and was given a picture of Christ.
All through his Word, Jesus encourages us to keep placing one foot in front of the other, to continue going “further up and further in,” as C.S. Lewis describes. Our Lord keeps pace with us, matching his strides to ours, urging us forward, celebrating what we have accomplished, encouraging us not to give up or lose hope or think for one moment that he is not fully present right where we are.
Christ is ever a friend who sticks closer than a brother, our Counselor who graces us with his guidance. Like a shepherd tenderly caring for his flock, he chases after the one who has strayed, binding up wounds and carrying us tenderly when we are drained of strength for the task assigned.
He too grew weary when he strapped sandals to his feet and journeyed through this rugged countryside. He understands when we simply can’t keep up. His voice speaks courage to our hearts and strength to our souls. His presence is with us for the long haul ahead, regardless of all the steps involved.
Elizabeth A Mitchell
Photo Credit: EJ Kunmann
Thank you, My Lord that you have set your sights on me within the realm of your infinite love. Within my frailty you see my love for you and secure me on every side. Your name is my sustaining breath. Be praised, my Lord.