My First Mountain

**This post is more for my own benefit than anyone else's. I don't expect anyone to read this because it is so long. If you do, thanks. If you don't, come back later as I am sure to post again very soon. Hopefully, I can get to the point a little faster.

In the summer of 2006 while serving as a student missionary with Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries, I hiked Mount LeConte. At 6,593 feet, it's the third highest peak in the Great Smoky mountains, and one of the highest east of the Rockies.

Five trails lead to the peak, which houses the historic LeConte Lodge. The lodge has no electricity, no running water, and plenty of charm. The only way to the top is to hike. Three times a week, camels hike supplies to the top for the lodge and the employees.

On our way to the top of the mountain, we took the Alum Cave Trail, the shortest and the steepest at 5 miles. It started out alright, nothing too intense. I witnessed endless rhododendron, beautiful streams, wondrous caves, dozens of ecosystems, one on top of another. A couple hours into the hike, we hit a spot which the more experienced hikers called "Monotonous Ridge." It was every bit as awful as it sounds, but it was only the beginning of what would become one of my biggest life challenges.

The hiking was difficult, and I was in no shape for it. The physical strain was harrowing, even agonizing, but that was not my biggest problem. The truth was, I hated that mountain and everything it represented in my heart. I was spending the final weeks before my wedding 9 hours away from the one I most loved. I also desperately wanted to focus on my time as a minister of the Gospel that summer. Inevitably, I was emotionally frayed. LeConte held all of the confusion, anxiety, frustration and torment that was inside of me. About two-thirds of the way up, I had an emotional break down. The tears flowed uncontrollably and I wanted to turn around. My dear friends comforted me, but I'm not sure they understood my tears.

With each step, my heart and my feet felt heavier than before. I tried to remember why I was there, to bring good news to all people. I kept hearing God's voice in Isaiah 52:7, 7 -
"How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
'Your God reigns!'"

After several hours of hiking, we finally reached the lodge. It was very cloudy, and I never got a really great view from the top. I felt more frustration and pure exhaustion. This was a great analogy for my life at that time. I was climbing the huge mountain, preparing to be married and begin a life with Kyle. Neither of us had any view into the future. We had not yet found a place to live, found jobs, found anything but love for each other. God had us in this place where He was leading and giving us no view of what He had in store. We had the chance to trust Him. We had to believe that, not only was he going to get us over the mountain, but He was going to have something wonderful on the other side.

We stayed at the top for lunch. After a couple hours, we set out on the Rainbow Falls Trail. The idea of taking two trails came so that we would, ideally, get to see as many different places as possible. This seven mile trail is supposed to have some pretty great scenery, including a waterfall. That is, when it doesn't rain for the entire seven miles down, and it did. It poured. We charged on, and with the rain came more tears.

"The way down was supposed to be easy," I thought. I was (literally) sorely mistaken. It was just as painful and difficult as the journey to the top. Because it was slippery, I fell about three times going down. Each time I wanted to scream. I wanted some helicopter to come and lift me off of this mountain. I wanted down right then. That was not even and option, though. The only way down was to keep walking, or to be carried by my teammates. By the grace of God, I was able to keep walking. God pushed me further than I ever thought I would or could go. He showed me his strength and his ability to get me through that day alive.

He did this in our lives too. When I came out of the Great Smoky Mountains and returned to Illinois at the end of the summer, He once again showed us how mighty He is. Up to our wedding day, we still had no assurance of employment or a home. We trusted, and kept charging on. While on our honeymoon, we got the call. We had a job. A few days later we had a place to live.

Some days I still feel like we're coming down off the mountain. It isn't easy. We still struggle to see where God is taking us. We know that he is glorious. He has carried us this far, and he will not forsake us. We fall down, but we are not broken. We feel burdened and heavy-laden, and He takes it away in time. O, what a glorious God is He!

Psalm 121: 1-2
"I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth."

1 comment:

Madly Hatter said...

This post definitely deserves some sort of comment...I remember this time in our lives quite well, and distinctly remember your teary phone call upon returning from the hike.

Seems like a long time ago!