You may think that my hiking boots are worn out. Maybe you are right, but I think of them as well-conditioned. I’ve walked a lot of miles in these boots in the past three years (yes, they are only 3 years old). They have been some of the most comfortable boots I’ve owned. As I was hiking one day, I was thinking about the miles and process of getting to the point where I could hike to the high mountain lakes and not dread each and every next step and how that relates to our faith journey.
My first hike wasn’t to the peaks of a twelve or thirteen thousand foot mountain. I started with a 20 minute hike to the top of Legacy Heights (the ministry property). Then I did that several times, often with a chainsaw to cut down some dead trees. As time and weather permitted, I began hiking longer and higher trails in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It has been a gradual process of building up my strength, condition and stamina.
Growing faith through the years
Our faith journey has similarly been a process of building to larger steps of faith. Let me give you just a quick glance at some of the faith trails that we have walked. In 1983, I told God that I would serve him in ministry, whatever that meant (I really had no clue and still wonder if I do today).
There was a trust in the Lord required as I left home and moved to the distant land of Texas in 1992. The beauty that was awaiting me there made the journey worthwhile (no, I’m not referring to the beauty of the state but of a certain young lady).
After several years of growing in relationship with the Lord and faith we made a giant leap in 1999 and moved to Colorado, without a job, house or security other than in the promise of God. In 2002, we planted a church. I left the security of a steady, and growing, paycheck to start a CPA firm in January 2003 to allow time to pastor the church.
It was because we had steadily grown in our faith that we were able to leave seemingly all that we had (businesses, house, community) and start Blue Fire Legacy at the end of 2015. Being fully dependent upon the Lord to provide required us to get to know His dependability through the many years before.
It’s not always straight up
When hiking in the mountains, there are sections of steep climbs that sometimes seem to be never ending when in the midst of it. These stretches of trail (if there is a trail) require much more from us than the flatter portions. It’s harder to carry on a conversation when you have to focus on breathing. Each step may seem labored and sometimes you question why you are there.
Then, often without any notice, you are walking through a beautiful glen. The trail becomes relatively flat and easy. Conversation is free and you are able to enjoy the forest or stream around you. You are still walking forward, but with a different pace and enjoyment than when on the steep climb. These sections of trail are important for our ability to keep going forward.
Much like the mountain trail, our faith journey has steep, hard climbs mixed with stretches of relative ease and beauty. In the midst of the difficult steps of faith, we have to focus more on our breathing as the Holy Spirit gives us breath. The strength required from deep within is from the Lord, often while we are wondering if another step can be made. Our vision becomes focused on the next step while the bigger picture is pushed back or not even present.
Then, sometimes without even realizing it, we are able to see ahead and around us. We have the ability to enjoy the Lord’s work and to share with others. We remember the hard climb differently as we are walking through the meadow or sitting by the lake.
It is important to remember that our faith grows at different paces throughout life. We need the steep uphills and the seemingly flat, or even some downhill, times to properly condition our faith.
Obstacles along the way
It may seem like we made a mistake to think that we could hike the trail we’re on. The trail may be steeper or longer than we expected. There are times when obstacles get in our path and we have to find a way around.
Since we had such a snowy winter and spring, it has been common to find snow covering the trail. Following in the footprints of others has been helpful, but sometimes, I’ve had to just figure it out without any real indication of where the trail is located. Other times, I’ve had to figure out a way across swollen creeks (wow, that water is cold!).
In our life journey, there are often obstacles that get in our way. We may need to look to the faith steps of others to know where to put our foot for the next step. For me, reading biographies has been hugely beneficial for my faith. When we don’t see the trail, or the stream is seemingly uncrossable, we have to depend on the Lord completely for each next step. Sometimes, our feet get wet in the process, but we need to not let the cold of the world quench the fire of the Holy Spirit within us.
Injured or knocked out
Injuries can happen in life as well as in our faith. It may be a twisted ankle or something far worse that will require healing. Hiking is difficult, if not impossible, when injured. It is easy to twist our “faith ankle” and end up disappointed or spiritually hurt. We all can probably remember a time that we’ve been hurt by another person or disappointed that things were not as we thought they would be.
I remember when we were gravely injured in our faith journey. Those were some long hard years of doubt and difficulty. But know that with the Master Physician, those seemingly journey-ending injuries can be healed and we can walk forward again, higher up the mountain in faith.
Keep walking by faith
Sometimes we don’t make it to our intended destination on the first try. We have to stop and try again another day. The first few trips up the trail this spring, I didn’t make it to the lakes. The snow was too deep on a couple of tries, and I didn’t have enough time on another. I had to keep working on getting there. The reward when I finally arrived at the high mountain lakes was amazing beauty.
When we are walking by faith, our destination may not be clear, but we’ll know it when we get there. The times we step out in faith, and seemingly fail, are important steps in our journey. Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. Strength is gained with each attempt. The Lord is faithful even when we are unable to make it all the way. Don’t give up when the going gets tough.
The views and experiences along the way are the most important part of the journey. We are engaged in a relationship with the Creator of the universe. Whether we are hiking a trail in the mountains or walking by faith in our daily lives, we are journeying with our Lord. What better way is there to live life?
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