A few years ago I found myself on an epic road trip from Tulsa to Portland to Vancouver to Plain, Wisconsin. I took the last few days of school off and headed west. It proved a fantastic adventure, though parts of it did go as I planned in my head.
For the second leg of my quest, I joined four of my guy friends for what they now annually deem their “Mega Trip”. On Mega Trip 1.0, they spent 19 days road tripping from Tulsa to Portland to Vancouver, and then down the coast to Mexico. I tagged along for the jaunt from Portland to Canada. Now, what you need to know about my friends – they are all freakishly athletic. I do not consider myself a true athlete, but I can usually hang with most normal people. These guys are just all mega freak athletes, and frankly I do not know why they let me hang out with them let alone join them on a trip like this one. I knew all of this when I joined them, but did not fully consider it.
After our mutual friend’s wedding on Mount Hood, we trekked to Vancouver. The moment I begin descending the mountain in Oregon I realized, I do not know the plan at all. I just joined them without any real clue of what they planned to do.
Upon our arrival to Vancouver, they informed me the trail “we” planned to take the following day was still snow packed. My heart stopped. Would we still try? I did not bring the correct shoes for that journey. Luckily, they asked a waitress where we should go instead. Her response still haunts me. “There is a hike I love to do up in Squamish called The Stawamus Chief. You all look like you can handle it. There is a few stairs, but you will be fine,” she said. I felt good about this. This girl and I seemed to be about the same level of fitness. She was a little bit taller than me, but I thought we could hang together. No big deal.
After walking all over Vancouver while eating crepes, we took the stunning drive up towards Squamish. British Columbia affords some incredible natural beauty. We arrived at our campsite, set up quickly and headed out to hike late that afternoon. Our goal, to see the sunset from the top.
The trail looked standard. Then, they started. Those “few stairs” that girl said would be no big deal began. I stand about 5 feet 3 inches on a good day. But these stairs, I swear, they came up to at the least my mid-calf. We began climbing what felt like never ending stairs that lead nowhere. At each turn I prayed they would be done. I trudged behind doing my very best to keep pace with the freak athletes I came with. As death felt imminent, my pride got the best of me. I did not want my good friends to see me struggle. I told them to go on. I would meet up with them at the top. They hesitated, but went on ahead.
Left alone, I began to inch my way up the never ending stairs built for giants. I knew without a doubt I would not make it. I accepted my failure as I plodded up the stairs willing my crepe filled body to scale each new step. I never wanted to quit more in my life. My thoughts spiraled through the regret of not using more self-discipline to work out, or wishing I had never invited myself on Mega Trip 1.0 with these athletes I can’t keep up with. I wanted to hide in a hole or get teleported to the top. Then I realized this journey parallels my life.
I spent so much of this hike wishing I had done something different in the past and praying that my friends did not judge me for struggling so much. But all I could really control was how I reacted in this moment. All I could do was put one foot in front of the other and scale the mountain right before me.
With my legs shaking I continued up the mountain. Eventually, one of the guys drew the short straw (I assume) and came back for me as dusk set in. I was grateful to trek with someone at this point, as we were hiking through bear country after all. Together we trudged up the stairs, him for the second time. Me at my worst, unable to hide how I felt. Eventually, we made it to the top. The sky opened. We could see what felt like the world. Nothing seemed higher in the sky than us. I stood in awe of God. As the sun began to set, we quickly walked down. My legs shaking and my words very short, we made it to the tent still friends.
Once at the tent, I assumed the fetal position for the foreseeable future. He went to look for the other guys we lost on the mountain. Left alone I began to process through what on earth just happened. God uses the silliest things to catch my attention, climbing this mountain one of them. My own foolish pride dictates so much of my life. I wanted to not continue to go on up the mountain for fear of appearing unable to do something. I wanted to not summit and deprive myself of seeing such a spectacular view because I worried my friends, who clearly love me very well, might think less of me. I wanted to throw in the towel because I felt I maybe did not use a whole lot of self-discipline in the past. I wanted to let my past decisions dictate what happened that late afternoon on a mountain in Squamish, BC.
But God knew I could do it. God knew it would reveal how little I trusted Him in that moment. God knew that reaching that summit would start me on a journey of putting one foot in front of the other and taking a step regardless of how I felt or what it made me look like. Whether that step was a very tall Canadian stair, precariously navigating the edge of a cliff, or walking along the flat trail, God used that day to show me where He leads I can choose to follow. He wraps me in His arms. He has not forgotten me. He knows where the path leads. So today, I continue to choose to put one foot in front of the other regardless of pride or pain or what happened yesterday. I walk, or slowly inch up the stairs, God sets in front of me. I enjoy the fresh mountain air. And I start to let people in, even when I struggle. I challenge you to do the same. Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous. Step towards God today. You never know where it will lead, but I promise you, even in the struggle, your journey with God is worth it.
Side note: I found out this summer those four freak athletes felt perfectly comfortable leaving me on the mountain because they knew I was a confident and smart hiker. They had very little doubt in me, despite me not believing in myself. Discovering this little nugget made me laugh at how the lies we believe about ourselves can stop us from so many things if we let them. Also, know that they were not jerks at all for leaving me- I was very convincing about being fine.