As I continue to reflect on the Mt. Whitney hike, simple spiritual lessons continue to surface. Here are some lessons that were reinforced or that I picked up along the way:
We have been united as Brothers in Christ for a long time. But, there is something that unites people who have to share knowledge, food, labor, and experience with each other to stay alive, stay sane and keep hiking when the summit seems too far.
To Rick, Mike, Bryan, Philly, and Kenny… it was an honor. All of you were great trail-brothers and were a huge help to me and one another at different times. That's what it's about. Winning games and taming mountains…together. We worked together in different ways. Because of it, it was a great trip for everyone. And, we've got memories that will last a lifetime and friendship forged by doing something difficult, fun and amazing together. The journey of discipleship should be the same way.
On at least 2 occasions I had serious doubts about whether or not I would make it to the top. This verse came to mind, "I pummel my body and make it a slave" (1 Cor. 9:27). Paul's words were directed toward the spiritual life, but he used athletics as his illustration. Just like runners strive and feel the burn as they press on the goal, so we should discipline our bodies in all things—that we might have the prize. Both on the 97 switchbacks and a mere 20 minutes from the top…I began to doubt whether I'd make it. I was dizzy, freezing, my right leg was hurting like crazy from hip to heel, and it felt like I couldn't breathe. "Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you'll get there eventually," I thought. I did, and I did. It made me think about the times I've allowed my physical body to dictate to me what I did or didn't do. It was a good reminder that our flesh need not dictate to us. We can pummel our bodies and make them slaves. We don't have to give into the flesh.
I read a couple of books to prepare for the hike. I sought out pictures and YouTube videos. They are helpful, but not the same as doing it. My friend Dean Smith said, in his comment on the previous post: "Your adventure reminds me of the opening chapter of Gary Haugen's book, Just Courage. It's entitled, The Visitor's Center. He describes the difference between climbing to the mountain peak (with all of its challenges and suffering) and looking at pictures of the peak in the visitor's center. Haugen uses that experience to describe the difference between believers and disciples in the church." Amen. There is a difference. A big one. As interesting as the books and photos were…they aren't the same. Gotta climb it to really get it.
The Psalmist wrote that the heavens declare the glory of God. I called that verse to mind no less than a dozen times. Along the way, the scenery was stunning. When hiking in the Sierras or the Rockies, something is wrong with you if you don't feel very small, and very honored to be there.
I learned a lot more on the journey, but a lot of it, I'm sure, will continue to be unpacked along the Big Journey. Thank you Lord, for a wonderful experience.