The raw skin on my leg stings when I walk. The scratches on my right quad from where I fell on the way down from that hike the other day are still sensitive. The bruise underneath is purpling. Green and yellows join the mix. And the scratches – red, and pink on the edges. Nothing rubbing on it, but the motion of walking disturbs the skin, and feels like new scratches.
It’s Friday, October 6. A few friends and I hiked Columbia Mt. on Tuesday. 7ish miles to the top; 4000ish ft elevation gain; 1million and 1 switch-backs (jk, we counted 35 on the way down – give or take 4 or 5 because we got a bit distracted once I fell).
4ish hours to the top, all of us slightly cursing the mountain and it’s seemingly endless ascent on relentless switchbacks. Slushy snow amongst the muddy trail, and the most beautiful crisp air. Enjoying the view of the changing seasons – fall is magical. Reaching the top was non-negotiable for me, despite my legs growing apathetic and resentful. I should’ve been hydrating more. And I definitely wasn’t eating enough. I made it up. 20-40 min after two of my friends. But I made it nonetheless. The air even more crisp. My mind clear. My body feeling strong in its accomplishment, still a bit resentful of me, but happy. We greedily snacked on beef jerkey and trail mix. Took in the views that photos will never do justice, and then started the 7 mile trek back down the mountain to our cars awaiting at the trailhead.
Not 10 min in to our descent and I slip on the slushy trail and my right quad lands directly onto the only rock (a very pointy and sharp one at that) jutting from the side of the mountain. Land and slide and curse very loudly. It tore through my leggings and thermals underneath and did a good number on my leg. That’s what followed. David and Joe stopped in their tracks, ready to call a helicopter or carry me down the mountain – expecting the worst from my very loud reaction. After a minute or two I regained composure, letting my leg relax and taking assessment of what damage had been done. Concluding out loud it was just muscle – not bone – damage, and that I’d be fine to hike down. Cringing to myself every now and then and taking small breaks here and there to refrain from puking. I made it down. The descent worse then the few ascents left on the way back to the car – because quad muscle, ya know? The struggle. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t too bad, I’ve been in worse pain.
It was inevitable. I almost always get hurt when I go outside, even if it’s as small as a stubbed toe, so it was no surprise to me. I just accepted it, shut up, and made my way back down the mountain. What else was there to do? Complaining and talking about it would be useless. There’s nothing anyone could’ve done to make it better or change it. It is what it is – I accept and repeat to myself and move forward. And just try to enjoy the scenery and friendship and clean easy air I am surrounded by.
The only part of the hike that I actually hated was about ¾ of the way to the top, when the switchbacks seemed unending, I couldn’t see the summit, and my legs were growing apathetic. After that moment, when I set my mind on the top no matter what, and told my legs they could keep going, I set into the pain and the challenge for the glory that waited at the top. And once enjoying that beauty I couldn’t have imagined from just below the top, I regretted nothing. Zero regrets. All the deep breaths. Without that challenge and enduring that pain and torture of a trail – I never would’ve experienced that glorious summit. The top of the mountain that’s taunted me for far too long.
I can’t remember anything worth doing that wasn’t hard. Every mountain climbed. Every mile walked. Every breath fought for – was hard. And that’s half of why it was worth it. Because I learned something. I gained something. I faced a fear and conquered a challenge I doubted I could do. Not by my own strength, never by my own strength. By the promise that God doesn’t set anything in front of me he doesn’t equip me to overcome. By the promise that if I fail, he never will. By the promise, that regardless, He is with me.
I fought for the top. Fatigue and apathy attempting to riddle me to the point of crippling me. Which I refused, because I heard the top calling, and I knew, one step at a time, slow and steady, I could reach it. I had to. And the way down – a slight relief, was still something I had to fight for. Seven miles of downhill with an injured quad muscle making it that much harder to descend.
Work for the extraordinary, and work to get back home. Work in everything. There will always be some challenge to overcome.
Sometimes I think of the Love of God like the attitude I have towards the hike, the challenge. For the most part, I love it and embrace it. At some point, I resent it, and get angry, and want to refuse it, and turn around without reaching the height of what He has for me, without accepting all the love I need to move the mountains I face in my heart. Without reaching my goal. Without overcoming the challenge and experiencing the growth. Instead, by His tenacity and faith and grace, I reach the top. And on the way back from learning the lesson for the ascent and summit, I learn again, that even in the aftermath, in the residual pain and bitterness and mishaps that I have to work-through, in the stumbles and slip-ups I make when I sin without wanting to after knowing freedom from it, His love is faithful to stay and take me back home. However broken and bruised I may be. Even once home, I’m not left sore for long. And the bruises fade and the scratches heal, and this tender skin will grow healthy again.
I fight his love and grace and faith on the way up. Sometimes pausing so long it’s extra hard to start again. Being tempted by the apathy and settling for ‘almost’. Reaching the top – realizing his relentless indescribable love and letting it flood me. And then descending from the lesson, intent on making it back at keeping that new found knowledge in my life, and I accidentally slip, I sin and do something I never intended, and didn’t want to, and instead of letting that overcome and overshadow the grace and lesson I have just learned, I walk home in faith. Because I will mess up, and I will slip and fall, but He is just and gracious, and faithful. And one day, the wound will scar and heal and it will forever be a reminder, that after the lesson, and after the slip-up, there is still life and life to the full. For He never leaves. He never settles for “I’ll give you grace until the lesson and after that you MUST do it perfectly.” No, He gives grace after too. The point is that the desire not to fall is there – regardless of it happening anyway. And I will do better – by His great love, I will. And he won’t stop perfecting me. Until the day He calls me home forevermore.
And don’t forget that the people on the hike with you are there for a reason - relationally to you, and for something they've got to learn too.
His grace is sufficient for me.
Lord, when I stumble regretfully, you are still faithful, and you still love me. You are my hope and my joy. You are. And I love you most.