“He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.”
I was pumped.
An adventure was ahead.
I set off jaunty, steps light, following Hubby along a delightful stream in the Rocky Mountains. I mused happily on the lighting (which was dappled in all the right places), the wildflowers (which were plentiful and perky), and the scents (which were woodsy and delightfully fresh).
I was on my way to see a waterfall with my favourite human. I had a pleasant walk ahead of me. The guidebook gushed, promising an ‘easy stroll beneath a canopy of pines’.
All was well on God’s green earth.
We strolled beneath the canopy of pines.
Until we could hear it.
At first it was muffled – a low rumble announcing gently that a waterfall was indeed ahead. The stroll beneath the pines came to a dramatic end.
Apparently to have a waterfall, water must fall from somewhere. It can’t just run on a flat surface.
To reach the somewhere, we had to go up.
Up we went.
The ‘up’ got more and more ‘up’. No switchbacks to soften the incline, no space to stop and catch your breath. I kept my head down, breathed, and committed.
Don’t look up. Just keep going. Breathe. You got this.
I looked up.
The ‘up’ was not over. Not by half. It kept aiming higher and the gradient was getting worse.
The trail was dry and thick with powdery dust which didn’t have great traction. Just don’t look down, and keep going.
I looked down.
Down was very ‘down’, if you know what I mean. I had come a long way already and it was steep. I glanced up to get my bearings.
Down looked bad, but up looked worse.
Now I was stuck between a rock and a cliff and I didn’t have any option but to keep going.
I took a few quick sideways glances hoping for something to hold onto. Anything. A root to anchor my foot in, a rock for traction, a tree to grab.
One section felt so steep I got down on all fours and crawled.
And I kept thinking, I’m struggling going up. Wait til I have to get back down.
I had a moment of sheer panic.
And then, the ‘up’ tapered off and I was up. I was really up.
The gorge was roaring so loud we could hardly hear each other. It was swirling and rumbling and hurling itself off crazy cornices and precipices and shooting spray in dramatic surges over the moss covered carved rocks.
It was stunning.
And then the time came for the descent.
I was already nervous. I knew what was ahead of me.
Just keep your head down and keep going. One step at a time. Don’t stop. Breathe.
I got a few paces under my belt and froze.
This was steep.
Hubby gave some good advice on taking a certain line and angling across like a skier and that really helped.
I was moving.
And then I hit the really steep section.
I tried going down on all fours and holding onto some shrubs above the path but at that angle I couldn’t get a good grip in the dust of the trail. Each step I tried to dig in my heels and grab something solid but my feet kept slipping from under me.
I said aloud, I can’t.
I was stuck.
Ever been there, between a rock and a cliff?
You don’t dare take another step, because you are scared of where you’re going. But you don’t dare go back because there isn’t room to turn around let alone safely maneuver the terrain.
I’ve been there too.
Whether financial or relational or legal or moral, we’ve all been stuck in a place we can’t function in, the kind of place that takes your breath away as you feel the panic rising.
Here’s the thing.
After a few rough moments, I got down off that mountain. I took one small step at a time, until I was back onto terra firma. It wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t without effort or angst. I needed to continue whether I was afraid or not.
It was actually a pretty great feeling to know I had dealt with a major fear of heights to navigate a challenging trail. I got the satisfaction of overcoming what for me was a major obstacle in order to get to a pretty sweet viewpoint. And while I didn’t feel as surefooted as a deer, by pressing on I was literally able to stand on the mountain heights.
I think that’s what our life adventures are designed to teach us – that when we feel stuck, there is always somewhere to place our feet. That when we don’t know where to turn, a trusted companion can help direct us. That when we feel like we can’t go on or turn back, there is an alternative.
That when we don’t know how we’re going to get through to the other side, we can rely on the One who walked the dusty trail before us, and has been in our shoes.
So wherever you are in your journey, whether in the pleasant stroll section or on your knees in the dust, know that you are headed somewhere beautiful. It might be uncomfortable. It might be terrifying.
But the destination in the end will be worth it.
Keep taking one step at a time with me?
Father, life can be so challenging and scary. Remind us that as we walk with You, You will direct our steps and enable us to walk one step at a time. Amen.