I was a Midwestern girl for almost forty years, and I never met a lake I didn’t love. But then my family moved to the Southwest…lots of sand, very little water, and a mountain view from my window. Well, if I can’t look at a lake, I guess a mountain is a decent trade.
After living there awhile, I learned that hiking to the top of the mountain is a thing. Basically, if you live in a place that has mountains instead of hills, you will spend lots of 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 I would hike to the top someday. After three years, that someday came. All I could think of was how amazing it would feel to reach the crest, to gaze at those wide-open expanses of land, to take in the captivating vistas as far as my eyes could see.
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. Crisp, fall air filled our lungs with courage. We chose our route to the top. Our map showed it as seven miles, start to finish. We had trained a bit. I had been walking three and a half miles several times a week. How hard could it be?
Several hours into my “I have a dream” hike, our GPS showed we had gone five miles. I was optimistic, we had only two miles to go! We pressed on. As we inched closer to six and a half miles, 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 seven. Then well past seven miles—no end in sight.
As we approached mile eight 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 eight miles back the way I’d come, I might have quit.
“Will I ever reach the top of this mountain,” I wondered.
Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there.
Whether your life, job, or family situation, maybe your current circumstance isn’t 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 just by looking at the mountain from my bedroom window.
I learned 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 to success.
On that mountain, I also learned that if we spend too much time looking up, we can lose our footing; we can fall or get hurt. If we take our eyes off what’s in front of us, we might never reach the pinnacle. However, by continuing to take one step at a time, we will inevitably reach our destination.
I would never hike to the top of the mountain without water, food, and proper attire. Hiking shoes, for example, are essential for the climb. Similarly, in order to have success in life, we must be well equipped. We 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. 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.
We finally reached the peak after more than nine 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 success of sitting on a rock at 10,679 feet, soaking in the breathtaking 360-degree view.
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 your success far and wide. And in that glorious moment, you might just forget how hard it was to get there.
Written by Sarah Beckman
Photo by Mungyu Kim