A Philosophy of Paths
By Emory G May
My son and I have had the joy of climbing three mountains in our lives, not the Matterhorn type, where you drive the pins, hang by ropes and cling to rocks like a lizard, but the kind where you simply follow a path, well worn by others who have traveled before you.
The first was Trappers Peak in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. It was a little over 13,000 feet of snow-covered mountain, which stood between Montana and Idaho. The trail to the top was rough, long, steep and in places, dangerous.
My son made the statement during our climb, “I don’t think we will ever reach the top.” He never said that at Waterton, which we climbed many years later.
I said to him, “If we don’t reach the top of the mountain, then we will just march right into heaven.”
His reply was, “Then it might be worth the effort.”
It was work, climbing that mountain. But he nor I will ever forget that moment when we reached the top and below us stretched the Bitterroot Range. We stood far above everything else and neither of us will forget the awe and grandeur of that sight.
He said to me, “Daddy, it was worth the climb.”
The second I will tell you about was in the Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, just across from Glacier in the US. In fact, they are part and partial, the same park. The mountain towered over the town of Waterton Lakes and gave a panoramic view of the lakes and the community. It was a climb well worth the effort, simply for its beauty, and we have some memorable pictures and thoughts about that climb. It was a difficult climb to make because it came in the spring of my 50th year.
The third path was started on the day following my 49th birthday. The doctors found a tumor in the pulmonary artery of my left lung and diagnosed it as cancer. They immediately sent me to the University of Utah in Salt Lake for further evaluation. After a battery of tests, they concluded there was nothing that could be done.
One doctor told me that my heart and lungs looked like a potato field. There was no way to do worthwhile surgery, treatments would not accomplish anything lasting, and so if I saw Christmas, it would be a miracle. I will tell you without hesitation, that is the hardest path we have ever walked and we thought about the end, more than the beginning.
Here are some thoughts I want to share with you about paths that I have learned from my journeys.
1. Any path, worth walking, needs to be going somewhere. Many of us spend our lives, wandering around in circles, never really getting anyplace or enjoying the things that life has to offer those on the right path. There has to be a destination and that destination ought to be worth the effort it takes to get there.
2. Sometimes, paths are pleasant and enjoyable. They have beautiful flowers along the way, cool streams from which to drink and wade, and the destination is a goal to be remembered. These are the paths we enjoy and make us want to take another and another.
3. Sometimes, the going is hard and perhaps even dangerous. After my son and I had completed our climb of Trappers Peak, someone asked us, “Did you have a gun?”
I said, “No! Should I have had a gun?”
They then informed me that mountain lions and bears frequented the trails on the mountain and we could have met one at any moment.
I thank God that we did not meet any of those creatures that day.
4. Another lesson I want to share with you is this; don’t make the journey alone. I am glad that I had my son on these journeys that we made. It was meaningful to have his company and his encouragement meant a lot when times got hard. Sometimes his complaining made me more determined to complete the task before us. I am glad that our Father, our Heavenly Father, was with us on those journeys as well. The Psalmist put it this way, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me.”
I guess I need to tell you that my visit to Salt Lake occurred over seventeen years ago and I am still walking paths. I shall never forget when fourteen doctors walked in and said, “Mr. May, your tumors are gone.”
I said with excitement, “Well I guess God has healed me.”
Their reply was, “Well, we do not have any medical proof of that.”
For the next year, following my visit to Salt Lake, during my recovery I learned how important it was to have someone with us on our journeys. You see my wife and daughter, as well as my son and I were on this third journey together and we needed one another and yes, we needed the comfort and protection of God as well. We were reminded that not all paths are pleasant, some are hard and difficult and many times there is an enemy waiting to destroy us with all that we have worked to accomplish. We learned to lean on one another and realize that each one have feelings as well and they are walking this path also. It gave me a greater awareness and concern for my family.
To be honest, I guess I have to call these journeys, the path of life and I have not yet reached the end. I have not seen the sights of eternity but one day I am sure I will reach the end of this path and all of Heaven’s glory will stretch before me, a sight much greater than the Bitterroot Range or Waterton Lakes and I will not have walked it alone.