Thursday, June 29, 2017

What I almost missed

We hiked through God’s glory yesterday, through gates of splendor, trekking through the grandest of sanctuaries.  Sixteen miles was a long hike by any measure, an uphill climb that seemed to go on forever.  

And I almost missed it.

At first suggestion of this particular hike, my reluctance surged into full defense mode. It is going to be cold, hot, wet, hard, long, and steep. Probably, said God.  

But on the other side of reluctance, whoa, I realized I’d be the loser if I didn’t go.  I am old enough to know that the uphills and hard places don’t even compare to the good stuff that emerges, not even on the other side, but along the way.  

Be prepared, and leave the “what ifs” for God to carry.  Those phantom fears and often ridiculous inconveniences, most of which never even show up, will weigh you down and wear you out.  Alarm bells should have blared and red lights flash,  when I discovered that two of our trails were named Long Hungry Ridge Trail and Twentymile.  There are reasons for those names...  and stories behind them.

We took along peanut butter sandwiches, bandaids, and an extra-large backpack of humor.

As in any daunting task, as I climbed upward, I could not look too far ahead.  Don’t think of it as almost 16 miles, I thought.   Divide it into a do-able half, and then cut it into bite-size pieces.  And as my grandmother always advised me, “Count down, not up.”  Not “you’ve gone 13 miles. You must be exhausted.”  But “You only have three to go.  God is bringing you through.”

Those who blazed the trail ahead of us, sometimes hundreds of years before, applied liberally switchbacks on the steepest inclines.  Back and forth, back and forth, degree by degree to the top.  This is a journey, not a race.  Wild flowers we could not even identify decorated our way, unexpected cool breezes ambushed us when we needed them most, and that sliver of light up ahead through the trees was not the sky, but deep blue hope.  At one point, we observed an almost invisible nest by the side of the trail, two tiny eggs nestled like a precious treasure inside. 

I thought of things on my plate right now in life and on my radar and on my heart, those things that I have been asking God,  “Why am I doing this?”   And in those mysteries , God reminds me even those are not an endless trudge into nowhere.  God is going somewhere with this.  “Trust Me.”

The end result of our hike was a big bad blister on the back of my right foot….  and a heart filled to overflowing with the incredible, impossible things God brings to whatever we do.  It was not wonderful.  It was full of wonder.

So we do not lose heart.
Though our outer nature is wasting away,
our inner nature is being renewed every day.
For this slight momentary affliction
is preparing for us
an eternal weight of glory,
      beyond all comparison.

                 2 Corinthians 4. 16-18

A blister will heal and disappear.  But I will never forget what came with it.  

And when we reached the top of the mountain, where we stopped and enjoyed lunch in a field of tall grass and enormous bushes of flaming azaleas, well, a different view emerges, and there are no small victories.  Too much to even grasp.

The end of the trail is never the end of the trail,
        because we are changed by it. 
                       We are changed by Him.
            God just opens up another dimension,
                     not necessarily wide-open doors
                     but His vision to see
                              the hidden ones all around us.
    God builds His strength in us
              to take us past the slightest momentary affliction
                        to spheres we cannot even imagine
                                        beyond all comparison.

Not necessarily in that order
    and sometimes simultaneously.
It was the perfect day.

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