Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Climb

“I can’t do this,” I said. Another rock slipped from under my footing, broke loose, and tumbled down the side of the mountain. “I can’t do this, God. I can’t.” Sobs that formed in my chest made breathing even more difficult than the altitude of near 14,000 ft.

I looked behind me, back at the place I had come from. Fear flooded me as I saw the height. The boulders that were as big as I was looked like pebbles. I turned away and focused my gaze upwards. But that didn’t help. My sister was far ahead of me and was growing smaller by the second. As she grew smaller, I became more aware of how far I still had to go.

I was terrified.

I couldn’t believe that people did this for fun. They were all insane. I was never going to climb again. I wanted desperately to stop where I was and end the misery. The further up I climbed the more work I was creating for myself. For once I reached the top, I only had to climb back down again. The thought made me angry and scared at the same time. What was I doing? What was the point?

I reached the top a half hour later. I was shaking with exhaustion and had to force myself to not think about the descent. Not five minutes after I had collapsed on the rocks to eat my lunch, Lauren wanted to know if I was ready to go back down.

No! I wanted to scream No, I don’t want to go back down! I can’t even move right now. How am I going to make it back down? I wanted to cry. What was I doing? I was stuck at the top of a 14,000ft Mt. I had to go back down. There wasn’t another option. 

Going down was almost as difficult as going up. It was certainly more painful. My knees and feet told me to back off and slow down. The rocks were uncertain and sometimes slipped or shifted when I stepped on them. Once I slipped on a rock, fell backwards, and hit my hip on another rock. I felt the pain take over the lower part of my body and I began to cry.

I rolled my ankles several times. One time I rolled it so bad that I fell over completely. I’m still shocked that I didn’t break or sprain anything. If I had, I would have been stuck in the wilderness, miles from civilization and from help.

After walking miles through woods we finally reached our car. Relief that the hike was over was overshadowed by the realization that we had been hiking for 9 hours. I climbed stiffly into the car. What in the world had I just done?

As we drove away from our adventure, I wished that I could say something profound. I wished that could say that the view from the top of the mountain had made the hike worth it. I wish that I could say the fun Lauren and I had, the few jokes we cracked, or the memory that we made had made the pain more bearable. I wished that I could be proud of myself for persevering when the going got tough. I wish I could see it as a wonderful spiritual experience where I saw the hand of God bring me through.

But I couldn’t. It hurt all the way up, and the mountain’s summit was only half way, rather than a huge accomplishment. Sure, I got to rest at the top. But I knew I was only resting up for a more painful climb back down the way I had come. I couldn’t see half way as almost over. Even when we reached the base and had to hike the trail through the woods, back to the car, it seemed longer than when we first began. I hurt and was miserable. And God seemed very far away.

Because of the pain, I prayed and cried out to God the whole way up and the whole way down. I begged for some sort of deliverance, for the pain to go way, for some encouragement that He was with me and had not forgotten me.

In life, out side of the mountain, I was going through a trial. It was a trial that plagued me my whole life. When I was younger, I kept waiting expectantly for it to end. I knew it would all be over someday.

Then, I snapped. A thought hit me that it might never be over. A thought hit me that I might be dealing with this trial my entire life. A thought hit me that the little breaks I got were not the end; they were only a rest before the trial began again. And each time the trial seemed to be growing worse, rather than better.

I had reached a breaking point. I was tired of my trial and I hated it. Because God had failed to deliver me, I decided I had to deliver myself. But, like the mountain, there was no way out. Once I went up, I had to go back down. There was no deliverance. Anger and fear gripped me. There were no happy words or cliché statements that would make it all better. It was and always would be.

I felt as if my life were crumbling. I felt as if I had no hope. Would it ever end?

Worse than the fear that it would never end was the fear that it was all for nothing. I didn’t mention before that when Lauren and I reached the top of the mountain, we opened the canister that was attached at the top with a chain. In the canister was a logbook for all the climbers that had made it to the top.  When we opened that canister, my heart sank.

            We had climbed the wrong mountain.

            Rather than the 14,000ft Tabuash Mountain it was the 13,995ft Grizzly Mountain. It was the tallest thirteener but did not qualify as a fourteener. And it was the wrong mountain.

            Seemingly meaningless pain that dragged out longer than I thought it should. What could be more miserable? Just when it seemed to be getting better, it got worse. I was faced with having to climb down when it was the last thing I wanted to do. But I didn’t have a choice.

            I didn’t choose the trial that plagued my life. The pain was there, constant and steady. The end had disappeared from sight.

            What now?

            I had to keep going. I didn’t have a choice. I could crumble under depression. I could scream at the sky. I could curse the day I was born.

            Or, I could keep going.

            Amidst it all—the climb up, the climb down, and the trial in my life—my spirit was asking me a question. It was a question that determines all things, the outcome of our life, and how we are going to get through. Is God still good?

            Is God still good?

            Well, is He?

            Even when the circumstances around me are dictating a different story, I know He is. I don’t know this because I have evidence, gifted knowledge, or a glimpse into the future. There is something inside that knows this and reminds me of this, even when my head and heart are dictating something different.

            I am in the bubble of present circumstances. I can’t see anything outside of the bubble. What is behind me doesn’t look good. What is in front of me looks even worse. But…

            Is He still good?

            Yes.

            The past hurts, and the thought of going forward is painful.

            But, God is good, and He loves me.

            Job may never have known what was taking place in the heavenly realms as his misery began and slowly became worse. He may have never known that his story would be written to encourage billions of people. But who his God was never changed.

            And his God was good.

            So is mine. 

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