Life at High Spiritual Altitudes

high(Forgive me if this sounds like Amateur Hour Confessions – that’s pretty much exactly what we are.)

My friend and I completed a 35-mile backpacking trip near our home a couple weeks ago, and the one thing I couldn’t get out of my head was how present God was during the whole thing.

It’s not just about seeing his majesty in creation, either (though there was oodles of that – and no, we didn’t get any pictures, evil teases that we are).

When we’re down in the valley, life is a blur. The cushion of first-world existence surrounds us. Our social structures and bank accounts shield us from pain. Though we acknowledge these as gifts from God, his fortuitous presence in these blessings doesn’t exactly jump out at us. It’s harder to see the flashing neon “I DID THIS! – God” sign on those things. Crediting him must be done more intentionally, out of a knowledge of Scripture (James 1:17). Although, to be sure, James seems to think it a sin if we don’t.

But when you’re on the trail, you live hour by hour. And his hand is much more obvious.

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Just Around the Next Switchback

hikers“I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” I panted.

Below us sprawled the Flathead Valley in its pristine summer beauty, seemingly close enough to touch, the houses and trees like playthings from our vantage at 7,000 feet.

But I barely noticed the view. My friend and I were sitting, gasping for breath, on Columbia Mountain on Friday with 30-pound packs – an elevation gain of 4,500 feet in 6 miles – and I was more exhausted than ever in my life. Seriously. This beat even my black belt test.

I don’t know whether it was the altitude, being out of shape, or both, but my arms were going numb, my legs shaking, and a deep pain starting in my chest. The scorching sun beat down (seriously, moon, you couldn’t eclipse three days sooner?); sweat beaded and dripped off our necks. Everything was dust (the trees having long ago gotten smaller due to altitude).

It had become switchback, switchback, five minute rest, repeat. The summit was in view, but stubbornly refused to grow closer. Was the mountain growing as we hiked?

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