By Patti Thornton, Women’s Ministries Director
Last August, Wilbur and I took a trip to Colorado. We knew, I think, that it would be our last adventure together. Most things we did together, and some he cajoled me to do without him while he stayed back as a cheering and sleeping section.
One day, I decided to take on a short, but challenging hike to a waterfall – and if I held out – a beautiful lake basin. There were other people at different points on this well-known trail, but no one seemed to enter the trailhead the same time I was, so there was no one to follow. Wilbur was proud to see me heading off with the new hiking pole he had purchased for me in one of the mountain sporting goods shops.
I knew from reading about the trail that it would be a fairly steep incline, and I was not disappointed. But the air was crisp and clean, the pine needles smelled glorious, and I was happy to just “be” with Wilbur. I hiked for a while before coming to a narrow creek. At that point, the trail wasn’t obvious, and I could not tell which way looked most travelled. I can tell you that I chose the wrong one. From there on, the incline got almost impassable.
I found myself grabbing roots – anything – to get myself up a muddy hillside without sliding backward. The waterfall was rushing right beside me – gushing with force after several days of rain. It was beautiful – and tall. I realized, eventually, that my choice in paths was actually taking me straight up the waterfall itself!
This can’t be considered an intermediate hike, I thought. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. It was all I could do to work out one foothold at a time, and my thighs were burning madly. I prayed for God to direct me to the right path, because I was sure the one I was climbing was not it. I prayed quite anxiously – and expectantly. Despite the temperatures that cooled even more with each increase in altitude, I had broken out in sweat. NERVOUS sweat.
Finally, I decided that an easy path was not in my immediate future, and I would have to trust, one step at a time, that I would conquer this hill. I thought about the battle my husband was fighting so valiantly without any assurance of the disease’s outcome. He bravely fought one skirmish after another, taking them as they came. I wanted that kind of bravery.
I did eventually make it to the top of the waterfall. I was wonder-struck at the view of God’s creative genius, and I was tired. I sat at the edge of the pooled waters, covered with dirt, sweat, and forest flora and downed a protein bar and some water. Eventually, an older couple came from the other side of the fall, carefully maneuvering across raised stones to cross over to my side. I noted with amazement that they were hardly mussed. She didn’t have a hair out-of-place and his hiking shirt was pristine.
I was intrigued and felt all the more mucky. “Do you mind if I follow you down,” I asked? After a quizzical pause, he answered. “Well, sure, I guess.” He poionted past me to my left and continued, “But my car is in the parking lot just a few hundred yards in that direction.”
I laughed hysterically and they both looked at me like I must have eaten one of the weird mushrooms in the forest. I explained my experience, and politely said that I should probably slither back down the mountain I had climbed. And that’s exactly what I did. By the time I was on the right trail, the back side of my khaki shorts was nothing close to khaki.
Why do I tell you this story? Because in this case, I expected an answer I didn’t get, and if I hadn’t trusted for each notch in the mud on my way up, I may have fallen, tail first, in Indiana Jones mudslide fashion. I had to be obedient to the path that was before me, trusting that the experience would be vital to my growth. It was. Oh – And I was in love with that hiking stick.
Even now my walk with Jesus is taking me places I never would have guessed, and without people I assumed would always be walking beside me. Believe me, the journey feels like an uphill climb most days. I have a visual of Jesus – and Wilbur close by – sitting on the smooth rock at the top of the waterfall reminding me that His wonder is worth a stump-gripping, derriere-dirtying, uphill trek. Even knowing He may answer my prayers with unexpected direction, I hope I will never stop expecting to hear from Him.