What a Mountain Hike Taught me about God

In 64 days, 15 hours, 32 minutes and 48 seconds {but who is counting?} Spring Break 2016 will be here.  Up until just last year, Spring Break meant nothing to me but a week to pack in some work hours and enjoy a breath of fresh air from homework that was breathing down my neck.  That all changed in Spring of 2015.  On an absolute chance, a dear friend asked me if I’d like to join her on a hike through Big Bend National Park in Texas, and on an adventurous streak, I said yes.

Little did I know what that yes would entail.  Morning prayer at sunrise, dashing down miles of mountain to make it to a cache site, desperation felt in the pouring rain.  Not showering for days, forgetting what I looked like and having no technology to lean on as a crutch for communication.  Honest conversation and blatant struggles that bonded human beings together like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Swinging a backpack onto my back and wondering if I’d ever be able to get up if I sat down one more time.  Countless rosaries and eating an entire half of a summer sausage by myself in one sitting.

I still have yet to eat summer sausage again.  

But through the entire experience, there are significant things that stand out to me as I reflect on last year’s trip.

I saw God on that mountain.

Before this trip, I had never felt the absolute desperate, heart-aching need for God.  Yes, I had a relationship with Him that was growing stronger in my college years, but it was very much a relationship of the head and not the heart.  Yet when you are struggling up a mountain path and have fifty pounds of gear on your back pressing you into the mud, prayer comes almost as a second nature.  The conversations that I had with God changed from “Hey God it’s me, can you give me something?” to “Dear God help me.  I can’t do this without you.”  And I can tell you right now – no amount of training could have allowed me to climb that mountain.  The level of endurance that pushed me to the top of the peak and granted me the enjoyment of the view from the rim was something that only God could have done.

I had never felt so alive.

I like to say I’m adventurous.  I try new foods, talk to people I don’t know and have traveled all over the world and even different dimensions {okay, that last one is only when I’m reading books but it still counts, right?} But I have never pushed myself physically so far out of my comfort zone as that hiking trip allowed me to.  And the satisfaction of knowing that I {with an incredible help from God and those on the hike with me} conquered something as  large as a hike that lasted almost a week set a fire inside of my heart and soul that has continued to burn, even almost a year later.

I have seen a lot of beautiful places on this earth.  The sunrise in Colorado.  The rushing streets of Washington DC halted for a crowd showing their support of unborn children.  The smell of rain in Seattle, Washington. But never will it compare to the beauty experienced in Big Bend.  It could be because I was tired, coffee-deprived and genuinely searching for the beauty in the little things, but the simplistic beauty of the stars over your head and a warm freeze-dried meal to keep you warm are without exaggeration among the best memories of my life.  And the exhilaration that runs through you when you conquer a goal and stand at the top of a mountain peak and experience Mass on the heights is out-of-this-world.    Truly I have never felt so alive as I did on that mountain, and it easily racks up as my favorite place on this earth.

I conquered fears and demons.

Honesty hour – there was a lot of fears and demons in my life that I thought through on those days where we had miles to hike, and rain pouring down our backs.  I was questioning God’s plan, wondering what the heck He wanted from me and mulling over things that I had started thinking about long before the hike started.  I was working through the emotions of a dating fast, grappling with fears and trust that God did in fact have a plan for my life.

I opened up with friends about issues going on in my life.  I trusted people that I had just met less than seven days ago with my well-being.  Most importantly, I talked to God more than I had ever done before.

I learned that there is joy in all circumstances.

After the Big Bend trip, I love hearing the verse from Philippians 4:11-13 that reads, “ I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  There is so much joy to be found in this world.  I’ll say it before, I’ll say it again …. it’s the little things.  It’s the beauty of a cactus that blooms in the dessert for the benefit of bringing glory to it’s maker.  It’s the taste of barbecue freeze-dried chicken that warms you up before you lay your head down for the night.  It’s the companionship of saying “Let’s pray a rosary” when descending a mountain.  It’s waking up from a night of rain and mud and seeing the sunrise out your tent window.  It’s talking in British accents to cope and laughing over the most ridiculous things.  It’s Mumford and Sons and picking your spirit animal around the campfire.  It’s the joy of loving a God and seeing Him in everything.  And realizing His love for you is so great that He shows it to you everywhere you look.

It is not the mountain we conquer…but ourselves. – Sir Edmund Hilary 

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