Many years ago, I climbed two different 14,000 foot-high peaks with my family. My dad had started a quest to scale all of the 14-ers in Colorado (long since accomplished) and wanted to share the experience with the rest of us.
So, we loaded up the car, drove a few hours, and set up camp complete with tents and sleeping bags. After all, in order to climb a tall mountain, one needs to start extra early in the morning so you can be done before any afternoon thunderstorms decide to develop. After a not-so-restful night’s sleep on the ground, we filled our water bottles, laced up our hiking boots, and hoisted day packs onto our shoulders.
At first the trail was easy. Well-groomed, wide, mostly level, and meandering through meadows of wildflowers.
Then we began to climb. Still beautiful scenery but a steeper slope. A few switchbacks to make it easier to gain the vertical distance. A few more rocks in the path and the first of many water breaks.
Before long, we were huffing and puffing behind Dad with gazes fixed on the path before our feet. One wrong step and we’d twist an ankle for sure. The scenery changed, too, as we finally reached timberline. Tall trees were replaced by stubby, twisted bushes that faded into memory behind us.
Without the trees, I felt the wind more. I also noticed the huge boulders littering the mountainside. And looking further up the path, I saw it. The summit. Standing clear against the blue sky.
With the end in sight, I found my second wind and pushed onward and upward to reach the goal. Only to find it was the first of several false summits as the narrow trail wound further up the mountain.
Oxygen grew scarce. My lungs burned. My muscles quivered. One foot in front of the other, I stumbled forward. Why was I climbing this stupid mountain anyway? I could have been relaxing back at camp reading a novel.
And then a voice called from above. My dad’s voice. “You’re almost there. You can do it.”
I staggered forward over the last bit of the trail and collapsed onto a rock at the top of the world. After catching my breath, I gazed in awe at the panorama before me. Peak after majestic peak for as far as I could see in all directions. Tiny colored dots moved along the trail below. A vast expanse of sky above. And the exhilaration of doing something few would ever do.
What did we do then? Said a prayer. Took a few pictures. Drank some water. And started the long and winding journey down to valley below. All the while wondering when and if we’d scale another peak.
Life is full of mountains to climb and the journey to the top isn’t as easy as we’d like it to be. Yet, when we’ve reached the end of our own strength, there is One who calls from above. “You’re almost there. You can do it.” And after we’ve conquered the first, we see a whole world of possibilities spread out before us.
What about you? What mountains are you climbing? Are you on the easy trail or the rocky slopes? Are you discouraged by a false summit or have you reached the top, only to find there are more mountains waiting to be conquered?