I’m not an athletic person. I don’t really like sports or physical activities as a form of recreation. But I do love to hike. Growing up, hiking wasn’t something my family did. But I discovered as an adult that I really enjoy being among nature in this way–as long as I don’t encounter any wildlife. I’ll take the flora, but none of the fauna.
Recently, the kids and I took a getaway to Santa Barbara, Calif. It’s not too far from our home, but it’s just far enough to feel like a new place. We live more inland and Santa Barbara is a beautiful combination of coastland and mountains. It was an ideal place to go hiking.
Our first day there, we took on a pretty easy hike. It didn’t require too much climbing or rough terrain. It ended at a beautiful little stream. The kids loved every moment of it. I remember taking it all in and thanking God for His beautiful creation and the joy of seeing my kids happy.
The next day, we took on a much more difficult hike. But that wasn’t the plan on the outset. We woke up and had the sack breakfast provided by the motel where we were staying. I hadn’t really made plans for that day–just to bump around the room until check out and maybe a quick stop by the beach on our way out of town. But the kids quickly grew bored of the motel room. (There’s only so much “exploring” you can do in a one-room motel room and the appeal of cable TV soon wears off when you can’t find anything to watch on hundreds of channels.) So we decided to check out early and go on another hike. I chose one that was listed as “moderate.” It was supposed to be a hike to waterfalls. It sounded so refreshing and beautiful–right up our alley.
When we arrived, we quickly realized how popular this spot was. We could not find parking. We ended up parking at the bottom of a decent sized hill. Filled with enthusiasm and a can-do attitude, we hopped out of the car to make our way to the trail. Once we arrived at what we thought was the beginning of the trail, we realized we had to hike another .8 miles, uphill, just to get to where our chosen trail began. Along the way, I kept asking people, “Is this the way to 7 Falls?” They all assured me we were on the right path. But I was so confused why it was taking so long just to get to the start of the trail. This wasn’t supposed to be this hard.
Eventually, we found our way to the right trail. We followed it and found ourselves at a barely-flowing stream. Once again, I asked fellow travelers if we were on the right path. They assured me that we had indeed found the 7 Falls, but due to a dry winter, there wasn’t much more than a trickle of water. As you can imagine, we were quite disappointed. But they encouraged us to head up another nearby trail to get to Inspiration Point.
After some debate among ourselves, we decided to take on the hike to Inspiration Point. After all, it promised panoramic views of Santa Barbara, all the way to the coast. As we started off, I could already tell this was going to be harder than I had planned or even wanted. Don’t forget, we had already hiked nearly a mile, mostly uphill, at this point. But we journeyed on. At one point, I decided I had had enough. This wasn’t fun anymore, it was painful and I wanted to turn back. But the kids wanted to continue. So I went a little farther.
Soon we encountered fellow hikers who were heading back down. So I asked them, “Is it much farther?” I’m sure they could see my exhaustion and readiness to give up. So they kindly encouraged me, “Well, it is a bit farther. But it’s totally worth it!” Spurred by their encouragement, we continued on, stopping every few yards to catch my breath and rest my weary legs. It seemed like every time I was ready to throw in the towel, we would encounter hikers on the return down the mountain. Each time I asked, “Is it much farther?” And each time they assured me it would be worth it. And every now and then, we would catch a glimpse of the ocean, a tease of the grander view that awaited us.
Eventually we made it to the top. And just like the hikers who came before us said, it was totally worth it. The view was breathtaking. I stood at Inspiration Point, in awe of what we had just accomplished. Once again, I took a moment to worship the God who was on display in the beauty of His creation.
As we headed back down, we encountered people on their way up. They stopped us to ask the same thing I had wondered on my way up, “How much farther?” I was able to tell them, just as I had been told, “Don’t give up. It’s a bit farther. But it’s totally worth it.”
By the time we made it back to the car, our bodies were sore. But I felt such a sense of accomplishment. I hadn’t given up. I hadn’t given in to the voice in my head that said this was too hard or that it wouldn’t be worth it. For the next few days, I walked around with sore muscles, but each wince of pain was eased by a sense of pride that I hadn’t given up.
On our hike, Journey was a constant motivator. He not only encouraged us to persevere (one of our family mottos). But he was seeing how God was using this hike as an object lesson for us. “Life,” as explained by my 11 year-old, “is like this hike. There are obstacles and challenges. But you can’t give up. And God gives us people along the way to help us.”
As he shared what God was showing him through this hike, I could see the parallels to my journey through healing from divorce. From the confusion and disappointments on the onset that things aren’t as easy or straightforward as expected. To the way God not only provides people to help as I climb my mountain, but also gives glimpses of where He’s taking me.
It’s been an uphill climb to healing for me. There have been moments I’ve wanted to give up because the pain just seemed too much and I couldn’t see why it was worth it. But along the way, there have been people who have encouraged me and told me the work is worth it. And every now and then I turn a corner and catch a glimpse of the view that awaits. Just like we caught sight of the ocean from time-to-time, there are moments in the healing journey where I get a peek at how the restoration in my life is coming together.
I feel like I’m still on my path to healing. But I know that once I’ve reached the pinnacle, God will be able to use me to encourage the next weary traveler. I will know the struggle and the pain. But I will also know the triumph of not giving up. So I will be able to tell the next person to journey on because it’s worth it in the end.