It seems to me that God likes to live in the difficulties. The times that I've struggled the most, I can't turn one way or another without seeing His presence.
This week I went on a mission trip with the youth group I'm working with to Tuba City, Arizona--to a Navajo reservation. Now the week was incredible-getting to see a very different side of America, observing our teens in action as the hands and feet of Christ, serving alongside them as they poured their hearts into those around us. But one part of the week has circled in my mind over and over.
Our last day in Arizona, we took a big part of the group on a hike down Jackass Canyon-part of the Grand Canyon. There was a choice to either get up at 6am for the hike or stay in Tuba, sleep in a little more and go to the Navajo market nearby. Now, for any who may not know me, I'm not the most athletically built person around. I'm pretty short, and decently round; and while I enjoy nature and doing outdoorsy stuff, I spend more time inside than going on crazy nature adventures. So I was pretty nervous when I volunteered to join the hike group, but determined not to miss out on what I was sure would be a great adventure.
So at 6am, I donned my Nike running shoes, braided my hair back, grabbed my very stuffed Kavu filled with 6 water bottles, NutriGrain bars, and my lunch, and boarded our bus. We drove about an hour to where our trail head was, climbed through a barbed-wire fence, and began the day's journey. As we descended the canyon, the course became more challenging. The first twenty minutes were a gradual slope of a ravine-the most challenging part being trying to avoid slipping in the mud (which I nearly failed on a few different occasions).
We hiked most of the morning in the shade, reaching our first major challenge after only an hour or so. At one point on the trail, we had to scale down a 20-30 foot rock face, using a rope anchored to the top. So while our guide got everything ready, we sat down at the top and nervously waited our turn to repel down the wall. When it was my turn, my legs quaked like crazy, scared I would slip to my death on the rocks and pool of water below. Looking back, it honestly wasn't too bad with all of the anchors' help (Thanks guys!). After everyone finished repelling down, we turned to continue on and found ourselves facing a very large water pool, leaving us only two options-both included shuffling along the sides of the canyon and hoping we didn't fall into the murky waters below.
Now that those challenges were over, surely we had to have been almost there! After all, he said it was only 2-3 miles down to the Colorado River-our final point before turning back to head home. Now either that was a gross understatement, or I'm very bad at judging distance, but the rest of the hike seemed to last years. Part of that was probably because I'm a very calculated hiker-making sure each step is secure before moving forward. The upside to that is that I can't think of any times that I've actually fallen while hiking-I guess unless you count slipping in mud. But I digress.
As we pushed forward toward the rushing river, we came across several more challenges where some of the more skilled hikers had to assist the rest of us non-skilled hikers across at different points. Many of these points, I gave up trying to jump from rock to rock, and did the shame slide down on my butt, bypassing any assistance from those who stayed back to help us safely cross. At one point, as we were climbing-and I was butt sliding-through some tricky areas, one of the guys who was trying to help us commented and said "You really don't like help, do you?" I quickly apologized and rationalized why I didn't trust anyone else to help me across most points.
Finally, we reached the river, roaring loudly past us. We had 30 minutes to sit down, eat lunch, and play in the frigid waters of the Colorado. So after enjoying our sack lunches, testing how long we could stand the snow-fed water that was the river, we turned back to hike toward the top. By now, it was around high noon, and the sun was directly overhead. I was still not completely recovered from the hike down, and now I had to do all the hard work again, but going uphill. It was pretty miserable for me. And my embarrassment at my slowness and heavy breathing was at an all-time high. But I knew I had to keep going, and I knew that those around me wouldn't let me quit.
So I climbed and climbed, and panted, and stopped to focus my dizzy head, drank a bit of water and climbed some more. And when I reached those hard points where most people were taking help, I butt scooted my way across, or if I had no other option but to accept help, I apologized profusely as I grudgingly took the hand of whoever was helping me. Toward the end, I became more willing to accept the hand of whoever was around me, so we could just get back to the bus. We made it back through the little crevice we'd had to climb through, over the tricky rocks, up the small wall where people had to lift us, across the canyon wall that hung over the murky pool, up the wall we'd repelled down, and finally-after 7 hours-out of the canyon. My head spun, my face burned, I'd drank all of my water and then some, and I could already feel the soreness of my muscles setting in. BUT I DID IT! And I realized that through it all, if I had just been willing to accept help the whole time, the hike might have been just a little easier.
It seems to me that God likes to live in the difficulties. It seems that I see God most when I am in situations like hiking this canyon. Physical strength is a challenge for me, but some of the most beautiful moments of clarity I have are when that is pushed to it's limit. Two years ago, I faced the challenge of HUG mountain while studying abroad in Greece. Looking back, the hike wasn't too difficult, but at the time, it seemed impossible. There, I saw God in the group I hiked with, seeing them willingly take a role as a different contributor to our hike. Last February, I night-hiked a "mountain" about an hour away from our school with a group of my best friends. I saw God as each of us worked as a unit, pushing and pulling each other up through the cracks in the rock to finally make it up to the top safely. Now this. And each time, I realize that I can't do it. And I want with everything in me to quit. But God says "Stop. I've got this." Maybe it's not that He actually carries me out, but it's in those moments that I see Him through whoever I am with, reaching out to me and saying "Take My hand." And I know that I cannot do it, but He can.
Maybe if I would be more willing to accept help, my journey would be a little less difficult. Not easy, because no growth comes from that; but sometimes we need others around us to show us a little bit of God, carrying our burdens. The people who went on the trip with me will understand this perfectly, but if we willingly will open up and share our burdens with others, allow them to help carry them, instead of holding them all inside and trying to do it all on our own, things can be less difficult for us. Again, not easy. God never promises us an easy life. But He is there to share our burdens, and He puts others there to help carry them too.
All you have to do is listen to Him when He says "Take My hand."
|Watching the sun come over the canyon|
|Through the middle of the canyon-lightness and darkness|
|Down at the Colorado River|