~ Psalms 121
The words of this Psalm have always been to me mysterious and beautiful and never more so than when I was recently hiking with friends in the Rocky Mountains - specifically Pike's Peak.
The plan was to climb half-way up the first day, then on to the top and back to the camp on day 2, descending to the base on the third day. I was excited about this climb and had been preparing for months - years actually.
And there we were at the foot of the trail leading up the mountain, everything and everyone as ready as we could possibly be. The cameras came out and pictures documenting the first steps of this journey were taken. The adventure had begun.
And I was scared. Really, really scared.
Had I done enough to get ready? Did I bring enough water? Would I be able to manage the altitude as well as the additional 30+ pounds I was carrying in the pack on my back? Would I have any trouble breathing, even though my asthma was well controlled and hadn't been a problem for years? Would I hold back the rest of the group? Would I disappoint anyone? Would I disappoint myself??
Fifteen years earlier I had been at the foot of another trail in the Rocky Mountains wondering whether I should try walking up a trail marked 'Moderate Difficulty' and determined then and there never to wonder again whether I could take on a physical challenge and miss the opportunity of splendor and the feeling of great accomplishment.
So there I was, facing the largest physical challenge of my life and once again wondering if I could make it. And then we started.
Step after step, breath after breath, I made my way with the words of this Psalm ringing in my ears - the music, actually, as arranged by the inimitable John Rutter. I would look up at the path ahead of me and see incredible beauty. I often cried at the blue of the sky, or the sound of the wind in the trees or the ever increasing distance of the town I had eaten breakfast in only that morning. I was doing this thing!
And I would look up and see the obstacles. A path that I knew still had miles and miles to walk. Huge mounds of rocks that needed to be got around. Seemingly lots and lots of obstacles. These sometimes seemed overwhelming.
So I looked back down. And took one more step. And another.
It occurred to me that we are always told to keep our eyes up, focused on our goal, when often times the best strategy is to take the next step, then the next, focused on the task immediately at hand. What we have set out to accomplish will be more confidently done and more completely appreciated if we just keep focusing on this moment, now.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my strength.
My help - my strength - comes from the Lord. In this hour. In this minute. In this moment.
And in the taking of the next step.
I made it to the top, by the way. And back again. One step at a time.