Recently I got to be part of a team of ministers that returned to Guatemala for a third time to provide ministry training for student pastors. These Guatemalan leaders are a true joy to be around and invest in!
This year our team tried something new on our free day — hiking a volcano. Guatemala has almost 40 volcanoes scattered around the country, but only a handful are still active. Pacaya, the one we decided to trek up, is one of those.
Now I know that for some of you this is old news, and you’re thinking “If I had a nickel for every time…” But for this Bama boy, it was a treat because the only volcano hikers I’ve heard of were the vertically challenged ones on a quest to dispose of a particularly powerful ring.
For a small fee we could’ve ridden horses up the trail, but we opted to do this on our own two feet. This didn’t seem like a bad choice for the first 100 yards, but soon the high altitude and steep incline began to help me understand just what a bad decision this truly was. Talk about killing my pride! In 20 years of student ministry, how many times did I lead hikes and from the front of the pack encourage students to keep up? This was certainly not the case here!
Our group would walk for a short way and then take a breather, but on one of the long stretches, I thought just how far we still had to go. We were barely halfway there, and I was gasping for air. Doubts entered my mind about ever arriving at our intended destination.
If I had continued focusing on how far we had to go versus how my legs and lungs felt in that moment I would’ve likely turned back to get one of those dead-head trail horses. Or maybe I would’ve just sat there and waited for the guys to come back through. But then I summoned my inner Gandalf and told myself to stop thinking about how far we still had to go. Just take one more step. Then take another…and another.
Ahead of me in the dirt were the footprints of our team leader. So I simply looked at his steps one at a time. I kid you not — this actually helped me to arrive at the top where we celebrated by roasting marshmallows in a lava vent. (That’s not something you hear every day.)
In the same way, I believe that we can get overwhelmed thinking about how far we have to go in our Christian journey. If we see the call to holiness and living a life that’s supposed to glorify God but we focus on our current temptations, struggles, and failures, we may be tempted to go backward, sit down and give up.
The call to be a disciple of Christ is not an easy one. There will be junk in our path to take our eyes off of today’s goal. But be encouraged. Jesus says in John 16: “…in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Praise God that along the journey to our goal of living a life that glorifies God He has given us what we need to scale this mountain — His Son, who has overcome this world and all the things in it designed to trip us up.
What has you winded right now? Are you losing hope? Do you have a brother to walk with you through this experience? If you’re almost out of breath and feel your legs getting weak, stop looking at how daunting the trip is. Remember, when you hold to the teachings of Christ — one step at a time, one day at a time — you’ll find yourself having lived a life of a true disciple (John 8:31) rewarded by much more than just a roasted marshmallow.