(This is Part 5 in a 5 Part series. See below for links to the other parts.)
I must continue to move on, of course, but I do not want to forget all that has been revealed to me here – in the midst of this indescribably difficult pilgrimage. I want to savor it, drink it in with great gulps, and remember it for the sweetness and grandeur it’s been in the very midst of excruciating pain. I don’t want to forget any of the journey, really, the beauty or the hardship. But I know how prone I am to remembering the negative and forgetting the even more profound positive. I want to remember the beauty that was at first obscured and hidden from view. I want to remember the way my soul has been fed even when I thought I would wither from thirst for life, hunger for companionship, and sheer exhaustion from the struggles. I want to remember the good, the beautiful, and the true that can only be witnessed here.
I couldn’t see any of that when I first looked at the mountain range ahead of me. I was overcome by the length and height and breadth of the torment that lay all around me. But now I can tell you that I am genuinely thankful for being able to choose to move forward. If I had turned back, refusing to take on this perilous path, not only would I have settled for a life imprisoned by the trauma that enslaved me, but I would have missed out on the hidden treasures that can only be seen here – in the most difficult places to get to.
I want to get to the other side of the mountain range – I really do. And I long for a time when every single day isn’t has hard as I can possibly cope with. I don’t want to diminish or, God forbid, somehow idealize how grueling it is to be hiking through these mountains. It’s brutal and I really do want it to be over. But while this is the way my days go, I’m grateful for what is being revealed to me along this suffering road. The mountains are hard. There are many dangers lurking here – both known and as yet, still unknown. I am not naïve enough to think that because I am climbing the first ridge I have this all figured out – I know enough to know that I do not. But it is the Maker of these Mountains who has called me to traverse them. As I learn to trust him more and more, I am less afraid to go onward. I’m still slow and out of breath, and I still long for aid and comfort along the way. I still wish I had better equipment – but I’m beginning to wonder if the mountains actually already contain the provisions I need. I wonder if part of the process is learning to see it.
I still believe that a pleasant landscape might lie on the other side of this rugged expanse, but I am also learning to love the mountains again. I am learning to be content to hike, to learn, to grow, to be strengthened. I am grateful for the views afforded at the peaks, for the beauty and strength contained in the very ruggedness and the challenges they present to climbers like me. I appreciate better the shelter provided in the valleys, even as I see that there are many more mountains to climb. And I am even glad to have been exposed to the realities of the pits and crevices that are beautiful near the surface but which claim lives by the scores and leave them putrefying in their clutches. These mountains are indescribably difficult, but I am learning that they are also good.
I never would have chosen this journey if I hadn’t been pushed by the bursting open of that box I had so tightly sealed and the horrible contents that spilled out leaving carnage lying everywhere around me. If it hadn’t felt like the only option in life-or-death choices, I can assure you that I would never have embarked on this journey. But since I did have to choose it, I am growing more and more grateful for it. I don’t really know if the landscape on the other side of this will be pleasant or not, but even if it isn’t, the mountains have goodness and mercy contained in them that I could not have witnessed or experienced without setting out – one faithful, trembling foot at a time. Pressing on is the only option, but I think I might actually be beginning to believe that hiking, hills, and healing are inextricably linked together and that I can’t have the healing without hiking these hills. I’ll let you know what the other side looks like once I get there. But maybe, before long, I’ll decide that living in the mountains isn’t all that bad.