Set on a Pilgrimage

Tuckerman Trail Head Photo credit: Dave
Tuckerman Trail Head
Photo credit: Dave

Hiking Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the northeast with an elevation of 6,288 feet, was my physical dare for the year, but its spiritual parallels are just as great. I’m happy to report that despite my misgivings on a Florida, sea-level-living girl attempting this climb, I did survive, thanks largely to the support of my twin brother.

We had planned this trip to New Hampshire together since early spring. As I selected Audible books for the airplane ride, one I chose was Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. I hadn’t read this book since grade school, but its allegory of the Christian life is timeless.

More than likely, it’s responsible for the parallels to the Christian life I experienced through this climb.

#1: Discipline

The pain of discipline is nothing like the pain of regret. – U.S. Marine Corp

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First glimpse of the Mt. Washington summit Photo credit: Miss Kristen

You don’t just wake up on a beautiful summer morning and decide to climb Mt. Washington. It doesn’t work that way. You train first. Dave and I were running several miles each week and rucking with our backpacks full of bricks to help prepare our bodies for the climb. We carefully planned what we would pack. I invested in a hydration pack. (Among other things, he packed ibuprofen and mole-skin bandages, both of which I needed.) We woke up at 4:50 a.m. so we could start the trail by 7:30 a.m. Ten hours later and approximately 9.5 miles later, we finished. (That included one hour for lunch and exploration at the summit.)

We wouldn’t dream of climbing a mountain without preparation, but how many of us are guilty of starting our days with no preparation in prayer or facing our figurative mountains without any nourishment from God’s Word? Proper attire is important too. We need to clothe ourselves with the Armor of God (Ephesians 6) so we can stand against the Devil’s snares. We also need people to stand with us.

#2: Accountability

No man is an island.  – Tenth Avenue North

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My brother Dave on the trail Photo credit: Miss Kristen

Dave was my accountability partner. We kept each other honest in our workouts and determined to be as fit as possible for this climb. We were climbing partners. He could have left me behind many a time, but he stayed with me. We joked in the tough spots, sang along the way, and stopped to enjoy the beauty. (He also took my backpack when the terrain became especially rough and rugged. Best. Brother. Ever.) I honestly don’t think I would have made it without him.

The same is true of life. We need Christian brothers and sisters to come alongside us and encourage us in the way. That’s why getting plugged into a church group and developing godly friendships are so important. Tenth Avenue North has a song that goes, “No man is an island… We’re not meant to live this life alone.” No, we’re not.

#3: Rest

He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul… – Psalm 23:2 (NKJV)

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Tuckerman Trail Waterfall Photo credit: Miss Kristen

Lest you think I’m as tough as nails, allow me this moment to emphasize that an important part of the climb is hydration and rest. Yes, rest. Not hours, of course, but a few minutes along the trail to wolf down a fluffer-nutter sandwich and suck down some Gatorade.

Perhaps my favorite part of the climb was during the descent when we paralleled some waterfalls. All of a sudden, we were in a lush botanical garden with the greenest of green plants and flowers, bubbling brooks, and waterfall spray. Below us was a receding glacier. Breathtaking.

How often do we run ourselves ragged “serving God” and don’t take time to refresh ourselves with the peace of His presence? Do we miss out on green pastures and still waters, because we’re too busy?

Let’s learn to embrace rest periods. They are precious moments we need to recharge and revive our relationship with God.

#4: Endurance

Pain is a good thing; it means you’re still alive. – My brother

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The Summit

Anyone can start a climb. Not everyone finishes. For me, the last 0.8 mile to the summit was my “valley of despair” (although it was anything but a valley). Endless boulders and rocks carved the last steep stretch. I was climbing on fours, watching out for loose rocks and big, black spiders (which apparently can survive anywhere). It was very tempting to quit, but I couldn’t. The summit was in sight.

Being a Christian is easy when life is smooth and skies are sunny; but when life gets hard, how many are like Pliable in Pilgrim’s Progress who immediately turns back at the first sign of difficulty?

Endurance and accountability go hand in hand; we have to remember we’re not in this journey alone. So many have gone before us; it’s our turn to be faithful for those coming behind us.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Yes, life will get hard, and when it does, the worst thing we can do is forsake Christ. Instead, we have to look to Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He endured the cross for us. How dare we turn our back on Him when the road gets rough? He is faithful to see us through. We must keep our eyes on Him and our eternal prize.

View from the summit Photo credit: Miss Kristen
View from the summit
Photo credit: Miss Kristen

We really are on a pilgrimage. This earth is not our home, and we can’t grow too attached to it. Our strength doesn’t come from ourselves; it must be anchored in Christ. In Him, we’ll find endurance beyond ourselves and blessings we never imagined possible.

Blessed is the man whose strength is in you, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5 (NKJV)

What’s next? Not sure. And that’s okay. I’m just a pilgrim, and I know my final destination. I hope you can say the same.

~ Miss Kristen

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