This past weekend, Brian and I went for our usual hike in our usual park-Jockey Hollow. However, I wanted to try a different trail than the one we typically start out on. We've done them all, but there are so many, we tend to forget the dynamics of some of them. Weeeell...this one had a hill...a big hill...a long hill...a long, steep hill. I don't like hills. But it's all part of the hike, and in reality, hills are really good for me because they get my heart rate up.
It took a long time getting up that hill. I had to stop talking because my lungs couldn't handle the tasks of simultaneous talking, walking and breathing! Again, I realized how out of shape I was. But I focused ahead, watching how seemingly easy my husband and dog made it seem.
|The view from halfway up...it's a log steep climb|
Going uphill always seems harder, but in reality, descending a hill is more difficult because you need to use different muscles. It requires restraint and concentration. You need to stay on guard for obstacles, which could prove to be detrimental to your balance. Like Suicide Hill, if you get going too fast, your legs could overtake your body and you could fall. Falling on the other side of 50 hurts.
Going uphill, as difficult as it is, is actually not the most difficult part of a hike. You keep your eyes on what's ahead, you follow the one in front of you and you look toward the peak. You know you'll make it, and once you do, you'll feel a sense of victory. You have more control when you're ascending because you learn to regulate your pace as well as your breathing. You can stop when you need to catch your breath, or when you need to assess how much farther you have to go. Obstacles in your path can be easily averted.
Our spiritual journey is much like hiking. Going uphill, ascending toward the likeness of Christ, often seems difficult, especially when distractions come and we are faced with discouraging long and steep hills. But take heart. Realize that those hills can be conquered. Some take longer than others, and some are harder than others. But when faced with the alternative, which will lead us downhill, ascending is the better option.
Giving in to what appears to be the easier option will only lead us down the path to destruction, despair or disappointment, and we will find the uphill battle even tougher. Giving in seems much easier than going up. That's the deception of giving in. It, like hiking down the hill, appears easier, but in reality uses different muscles. It requires restraint. It requires concentration to avoid the obstacles in our path. And once we get going, it's like Suicide Hill. The momentum builds and it's harder to stop, harder to avoid the obstacles. Before we know it, we've wrapped ourselves up into a human snowball, barreling down the hill, unable to stop, causing harm to anyone in our path. The deceit of the descent.
Ascending is a much more viable option. Psalms 120-134 are (appropriately, for this blog) called "A song of ascents." When ascending, we keep our eyes on what's ahead and the One Who is in front of us. Jesus has walked the path before. He knows our struggle, He knows our triggers, and He knows what will cause us to stumble. I lift my eyes up to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Ps 121:1-2). As we trudge toward the peak, sometimes we need to stop and breathe, stop and regroup, stop and gather strength. Our help is in the name of the Lord (Ps 124:8).
Sometimes we need to stop to rest and wait for the Lord's direction to keep going. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in his word I put my hope (Ps 130:5). But we keep looking ahead; looking up to the top, knowing that the obstacles that we encounter will be removed by trusting in His Word. He will not let your foot slip (Ps 121:3); knowing that we will overcome this hill, we will get to the top and we will be victorious! With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies (Ps 60:12).
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:13-14).
Blessings Along the Path,
Song of the Day
Victor's Crown (Darlene Zschech)