April 15, 2014

The View That's Ahead

The first time I hiked Humpback Rock on Skyline Drive, I thought I was going to pass out. It was an oddly warm January day, so I had to step carefully to avoid the ice and snow from the previous week, and about halfway up, the wide path gave way to rock piles and treacherous turns. My thighs burned, and I had to stop quite often to catch my breath and take swigs of water. I wondered when the top would come and if I'd ever get there. Mostly, with complaints rising up in my chest, I questioned if all this exertion would be worth it in the end.
Because at the base I'd gotten a good look at the goal: a stack of huge boulders jutting out over a ledge. The rocks were certainly striking, because they stuck out above the tree line, but from where I stood, I doubted the views I'd see would be what everyone said they were. I hiked it anyway, thighs screaming and feet slipping on icy rocks all the way up.

Finally, the path leveled out, and with a heaving chest and flushed cheeks, I came to the jutting rocks. Tentatively, I stepped out as far as I could go without fear of falling and looked around.

The view was incredible. The cars driving on the road below appeared tiny, and I followed them as they snaked along the curves in the hills. The mountains sloped down into quilt patches of farmland, divided by white houses and black fences. The sky was so expansive that I could see it in various layers and colors. I laid back and closed my eyes, feeling the warmth of the rocks below and the sun above. A deep satisfaction and sense of accomplishment washed over me; It had been worth it after all.

Life is a difficult hike, isn't it? Sometimes the path is smooth and we're bouncing merrily along, but most of the time it's slippery and treacherous, and we wonder if it will all be worth it in the end. Because we've heard of what's to come, and we're told the views will be glorious, but we haven't seen it for ourselves and it's difficult to imagine. All we see are the things in front of us: the trees, the stumbling blocks, the gnats flying around our face. And we feel things too: the pain, the exertion, the complaints rising up in us. It's a matter of faith that the views are ahead and a matter of endurance, and no one can do the work for us.

But doesn't it feel good to breath hard and know your body is working as it's intended? Just the same, it's quite an accomplishment to push forward in faith, to ignore the gnats, and to get back up again when you've fallen over a stumbling block and you're bleeding. We were made for this--for faith. We were made to hope that the end and the views are a reality and to anticipate what we'll find at the top.

So let's keep walking, keep pushing, keep believing. Because these light and momentary afflictions will give way to rest and warmth and joy. They will give way to Him. Where we once could only imagine and hope, we will see clearly. And we will look back at the trail on which we've come and, with great satisfaction, know that it was worth it in the end.