See that tiny trail going up the mountain? 2000 ft. incline in 1 mile. (starting at 6,500 ft, summit at 8,590 ft.)
It is the highest and longest incline on the PLANET! (Check out the history HERE, hilarious pictures from 1907)
So, I climbed it yesterday, and survived! And for those of you who know me, this was about much more than “climbing a mountain.” God spoke to me the whole way. And here’s what I learned on the Incline:
*The first piece of advice was probably the most helpful and critical, and it’s applicable to our faith as well . . . I talked to a few teenage kids who had just finished the Incline and I asked if they had any advice . . . their response: “Don’t look back and just focus on the next step . . . when you’re too tired, just keep taking ONE step.” WOW! Awesome advice for the Incline AND Faith!
Lesson #1: Set your mind and heart on the goal. It’s no different in faith, we have a goal. And we accomplish the goal by keeping our eyes on Jesus, who has set the goal before us. We:
“Keep our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
When I started the Incline, I was filled with determination to “Just Do It.” But things changed, rather quickly. :O In our faith, God tells us:
“Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up; and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Lesson #2: You’ll want to quit. By 1/4 of the way up, I can’t recall how many breaks I’d taken. Tackling this venture with my two teenage sons, I slowed them down A LOT. 1/4 of the way there, it was already VERY painful in MANY ways. I began to seriously reconsider my “great idea” to climb this thing. And so goes the life of faith. God grabs hold of us, sets us on a path, and it gets hard, sometimes it seems IMPOSSIBLE to go on. Pain hits from all sides, and on the Incline, it is EXTREME! And doubt begins to wreak havoc in the mind. And the battle begins. “Maybe we we weren’t meant to go through this pain and suffering, maybe we’ve misinterpreted the goal.” We’ve been obedient to God, possibly even accomplished massive feats in His name, so maybe that’s all He’s asking of us. Surely He doesn’t intend for us to continue in our pain and suffering. Maybe half way is enough! That shows accomplishment, right? Not according to my two sons, and not according to God either.
Lesson #3: Don’t Go the Journey Alone! So, I had my two teenage sons with me, and an angel (I’ll explain that it in a minute). At the half way mark, there’s a small trail that leads to the base, back to the car . . . back home! The locals call it “The Bailout.” Guess what, I DESPERATELY wanted to take it. I reasoned with my two sons that quite possibly we didn’t need to do this “today.” Maybe we could tackle it another time, maybe we weren’t quite ready for this feat. They looked at me in horror, as I hoped they’d give in to my perfectly sound reasoning. Because at this point, we couldn’t take 5 steps without taking a break (okay, maybe I couldn’t!). It was BRUTAL! So, their response brought horror upon my soul, “Mommy, we can’t quit now, that would be failing.” Oh boy. That was more painful than the first half of the Incline! And they said this as I watched other climbers passing us by . . . and let me tell you, they looked like they were going to DIE!!! I truly thought at least one of them was taking their very last breath!
So, about that same time, an 80 year old man (an angel) stopped to talk to us, I asked him about the“Bailout,” as we stood at the path that was a “quick escape,” and he confirmed it would take you to the base of the trail. I sighed. He looked at me, straight in the eyes, and said, “You can do this.” He then proceeded to inform me of the “false summit” that we would hit. He told me to regain my strength and then we only had 1/4 (1100 steps!) of the way to go. He detailed it out, telling me about the decrease in incline compared to what we were doing at the moment. He assured me that what I was enduring at this point was the hardest part. And again, he said, “You can do it, It’s worth it.” 80 YEARS OLD!!!!! Twice my age, encouraging me . . . because he’s accustomed to doing it 3 times a year!!!
At that time, another gentleman, I took to be a sergeant of sorts, leading an army troop in training, said, “Don’t look at how far you have to go, look at how far you’ve come, and get going!” Catching my breath, I declared, “Thank you sir, good advice.” I wasn’t convinced, but instantly, the Lord spoke Philippians 3:13-14 to my heart:
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
So, I took the man’s advice, looked at how far I’d come (found my stomach in my throat at how high I was!, and pressed toward the goal. I just hoped there was a prize!! LOL Like maybe a stretcher and ambulance!
Lesson #4: Others Can’t Do It For You. As the 80 year old man encouraged me upward, his description of the summit wasn’t something comprehensible, I had to experience it for myself. And he knew it. He told me just enough to refresh my mind and strength, so that I could take one more step. And no one can live out your faith for you. You need to fully experience walking with God YOURSELF! It’s a personal journey, don’t take others’ word for it. Surround yourself with others that will encourage you to take just “one more step.”
Lesson #5: It’s Worth It! Amazingly, still breathing, I reached the summit, and my boys, who had stuck with me the whole way, had gone ahead of me for a few minutes and awaited me at the top with “high fives.” I wanted to sit down and weep, bitterly. There was pain and joy, at the same time. And it was because of them that I kept going. I honestly would have quit if they and that angel of an 80 year old man had not encouraged me and strengthened my spirit. The Incline has been called a “stairway to heaven,” it ended in a similar way that I see my life ending. Finishing the journey, the extreme climb of life, and having those who have made it there before me, waiting to embrace me and rejoice in reaching the goal. Breathtaking.
So, when it comes to faith, the Incline held many lessons. Set your eyes on the prize. Have others on the journey with you who have gone before you in the fight of faith, who can strengthen and encourage you when you’re too weak to carry on. Don’t focus on how far you have to go, but how far you’ve come and keep pressing forward. When you’re weary and feeling like you want to “Bailout,”don’t allow reasoning, and the enemy to get the best of you, you WILL face this internal battle . . . the pain and suffering can get INTENSE. But, God intends for us to endure because something happens at the summit, something unforgettable, something breathtaking . . . VICTORY!
*This gives you an idea of really how steep the incline is!
Afterthought (days later)
So, it’s been a few days since my climb. And I’ve had an afterthought:
I want to do it again. Here’s the thing when it comes to faith: through each battle, in this fight of faith, you build strength, endurance, perseverance, and ultimately, confidence–THROUGH THE PAIN. When you’ve reached the goal, when the battle is over, you quickly forget the pain you were enduring at the moment. It disappears almost immediately because the joy eclipses any of the pain! So, we can’t avoid the tough times, the battles for our faith; when God is faithful through them, with us each step of the way, and we see victory through each challenge, we are fully prepared for the journey . . . ready for anything. Quite possibly, this has prepared me for a few of the 14ers I’ll be climbing soon!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).