One of my favorite pastimes is hiking. There might be a better location for a hiker somewhere else in the world, but it would take a monumental argument to convince me that it’s better than here.
There are too many trails to choose from, however, and, for someone new to the area, it can be overwhelming. There is a wide range of difficulty in the available trails. Some are little more than a stroll and others can take some stamina and determination.
Hiking partners well with my love of photography. It is the photography that often meters my steps rather than the trail’s incline. I am always interested in the different perspectives that can be offered by an increase in elevation and I have learned to be intentional about stopping frequently to take in the view.
The destination at the end of the trail is not the ultimate goal for me. I have hiked portions of the Colorado trail but for a day hiker like me, the 485 miles would seem endless. The Continental Divide trail seems even less likely to have a destination. Several thousand people have completed each of the two trails. Clearly, there is a destination for each of those trails and it would be quite the accomplishment to hike either to completion.
Fourteeners are the obvious destination hike. I have summited both Mount Belford and Mount Shavano. Summiting each was certainly a goal but the journeys to each summit and back were far more important to me. The Shavano hike taught me more about what my body needs. Shavano was the first fourteener for me after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It was also the first after I turned 50.
I was unsuccessful in multiple attempts at Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) before finally completing it twice – once in winter and once in summer. I have yet to complete the Flattop trail in RMNP. The late September day that I thought I was sure I would complete it I was chased off the mountain by a freak thunderstorm that pelted me with hail. I was unsuccessful in my first attempt at Waterdog Lakes thanks to postholing thigh deep in the snow. I returned two weeks later with my snowshoes and never strapped them on.
I have often related my Christian walk to a hike. The early anticipation was met with a steep incline of learning and growth. At many points in the journey there have been plateaus between inclines that provided rest and analysis of the learning and growth. Without intentionally seeking learning and growth, the plateaus can become too comfortable and stagnating.
Just like any other relationship, the Christian walk requires work. Rather than think of it in terms of a single hike, I now think of it as multiple hikes with no other goal than to improve relationships: my relationship with God and my relationships with my neighbors. The goal is not some faraway place but relationship here and now.
No matter where I am in the midst of a journey, God meets me exactly where I am. No matter how unworthy I think I am, God reassures me that I am worthy. No matter how unlovable that I think I am, God loves me and always has. God loves all of God’s children, no matter what.
Brent Wiescamp is pastor of First Christian Church in Salida.