Your conditions for recreation evolve over time. In the twenties your conditions are normally financial; the thirties are about time, or the lack of it. At forty it is all physical. I have the money, I have the time, but my body is no longer a willing participant and has become a complaining malcontent.
I first noticed a change when I passed thirty. My brother was cutting some trees and asked if I would tie a guide rope to one. “No problem!” I told him and without hesitation climbed the ladder. That’s when the thought “I could fall from here and get hurt”, crossed my mind, and just like that, I was done with heights.
I had always been a risk taker. I remember slithering to the tops of trees, laughing like an idiot while the wind blew me around. If I dwell on those days now, my knees get wobbly. I am forty now, and twice the man my wife married. The extra tonnage makes moving around interesting. Balance and flexibility are questionable, and endurance is watching re-runs of Disney movies with my kids. I just should have known better than to sign up for the church hiking trip.
Let’s establish something about church events. Participation is hard to get so it is a good arena for the soft-sell. “It’s fun! There’s food!” Honestly, offering food to a fat guy is just not fair. I didn’t even hear the word ‘Hike’ until the third announcement. But I was there Saturday morning, blissfully oblivious to what was to come.
Mount Baker’s Lake 22 trail is marked “Good for kids”. I suspect the kids they had in mind have four hoofs. It starts deceptively easy, with a gentle slope, wide path and a canopy of trees overhead. The younger folks set a brisk pace and by the time I got to the first bridge I knew I was in trouble. I was sucking air like a vacuum, and my heart reminded me of Ricky Ricardo pounding a bongo drum.
I resumed at a slower, albeit steady, pace but with each step the trail got steeper, the ground rockier and the path more treacherous. The shady trees disappeared and the hot sun burned past the clouds. Soon sweat was rolling down my face, and for the first time I considered stopping. After all, I reasoned with myself, I need to know my limitations. There’s no shame in stringing up my hammock for a few hours. But then I saw my wife waiting for me. She smiled and said “You can do it honey!” What’s a guy supposed to do?
We continued up switchbacks, over slippery rocks, and around boulders. Every time I thought about quitting, someone would be there, offering encouragement and urging me forward. If I was with a group of heathens one of them would have said “A fat old guy like you should just quit!”, but I was with Christians, and it’s not in them to be brutal. I would see a smiling face and I kept putting one foot in front of the other. There is never a sinner around when you need one.
If you pay attention there are lessons in experiences. We came to some level walkways and my wife remarked, “I never appreciated this when we were at the bottom.” I knew then that God was about to teach me something. Stopping to look back down the trail, I considered how like the Christian faith this hike was.
It starts out easy and fun and you think “Why, anyone can do this!” However it is not long before you come to an obstacle and it is with some surprise that you have to scramble over or around it. You discover the road less traveled is not as easy as you thought. There is effort, quiet a lot of it, required to move a few inches further. It is dangerous, and doubts creep into your heart. You begin to question your fitness to even be on the path. Surely, you reason, there are better things you can do than take this abuse. It is at those moments that the support of your brothers and sisters is most needed.
The Christian life is hard. It requires effort, sometimes beyond your endurance. In those few steps, when the path was flat and smooth, I saw that without the difficulty below I would never have appreciated the blessing. God provides the fellowship to keep you going just long enough to reach those moments. Enjoy those times. Take the rest and enjoy the view. It won’t last long because the trail continues, harder and higher.
I suppose hiking with Christians is not a bad idea after all.