In April of 2007, I learned about a goal my near-60-year-old parents had made for themselves. Living all of their lives at just a few hundred feet above sea level, they wanted to visit my family in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and climb America’s Mountain—the 14,110-foot, Pikes Peak.
I doubt they were surprised by my silence on the phone as I took in their plans. You see, my parents don’t usually set big goals for themselves, particularly ones that require physical exertion. The trek up Pikes Peak is a serious 13-mile journey. It’s not for the faint-hearted. (And at nearly 60, I wondered what kind of physical condition my parents’ hearts were in!)
With their approval of me tagging along, our talk and preparation for the Big Hike began. Early September came before we knew it, and my parents, a cousin, and a family friend arrived in Colorado Springs excited for our adventure.
The experience we shared through the next two days was awesome! After 14 hours of hiking, we were all sitting in the visitor’s center at the summit, drinking hot chocolate and eating donuts baked at 14,110 feet. My husband met us there, too, to drive us down the Peak—about an hour ride.
Now that I’m back at 6,000 feet, living in the foothills of the Front Range, and my parents are at home along the Mississippi River, I’ve been reflecting on our journey and how it correlates with faith in our everyday lives.
Here’s what I’ve learned about climbing into faith.
Difficulties are inevitable. On a 13-mile hike, we knew to expect a few hardships. Blisters, sunburns, inclement weather—you name it. A number of difficult situations were possible.
Knowing this ahead of time allowed us to prepare with faith. We whole-heartedly believed that one way or another, we could all get to the top of Pikes Peak. We put our faith in God and believed He would carry us through to the finish. Living with faith is a choice.
You can be prepared, but you may still get wet. Each member of our group packed a rain poncho, knowing that afternoon showers are common on the mountain. Sure enough, a few hours into our hike it started raining and hailing. We covered ourselves as well as we could, but that didn’t keep water from hitting our faces, trickling down our arms, and seeping in through our waterproof boots. We were wet, even though we prepared to stay dry.
Our faith had to go beyond our own preparations. Taking precautions is important, but they can’t be the source of our faith. Faith belongs in God for our life journey, not in our plans.
Doing life with a group allows for safety, encouragement, and fun. As we walk through life, including hikes up mountains, there are benefits to walking with other people. When my family was trekking through hail, rain, and a muddy trail, we pulled and tugged at each other’s ponchos so they’d cover our backpacks and us as well as possible.
After still getting soaked, my mom looked a bit discouraged. All I could do was tell her that we were close to our destination—Barr Camp. I really didn’t know how much further we had to go, but I thought it must be close, and my mom needed to hear that we were almost there.
It was good to go through the difficult and wonderful with other people. Going through life with other believers strengthens our faith as we depend on one another for help, encouragement, and hope.
Occasionally doing life alone brings opportunity for contemplation, reflection, and one-on-one time with God. During the second day of our journey, my cousin and his friend took off at a speed greater than I could keep up with, and my parents were moving a bit slower than I cared to, so I spent part of the day on my own. It was wonderful!
Without the distraction of conversation, I paid more attention to all that was around me. My spirit was refreshed by time alone with God and His creation. It left me declaring again that my faith rightly belongs in Someone unseen. Keeping time for the Lord and ourselves lets Him remind us why He’s deserving of our faith.
Going after a goal that seems almost impossible makes you stronger and helps you believe you can do that or more again. When we started the trek up Barr trail, we couldn’t help but have a few doubts regarding the unknown ahead of us. But when the trip was over and we saw that we all reached the summit, we started talking about the next Colorado 14ner we could climb together. With one successful hike behind us, we believed we could do it again.
Experiences—good and bad—highlight God’s involvement in our lives, demonstrate how He cares for us, and have the ability to bolster our faith and hope for the future—even a future that brings uncertainty with it. Faith grows the more we use it.
Getting out of your comfort zone brings views like none you may ever experience again. My parents had been to the top of Pikes Peak via the highway and railway rather easy routes. They wanted to see Pikes Peak in a new way and chose to get out of their comfort zone to do it. Because they jumped onto a trail with which they were unfamiliar, they were in a great position to stretch their faith and see God in new ways.
The experience we had on Barr Trail can’t ever be recreated. We may hike the mountain again, but the views will be different next time. Taking steps of faith that lead out of our comfort zone often bring once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
"It’s the object of our faith that’s most important." That’s a quote from my pastor, Steve Holt. Our journey up Pikes Peak was successful because our faith was in God. (And it would have been successful even if we hadn’t reached the summit.)
Our faith was never in our abilities, the weather, or our months of preparing. Had it been in any of these things, we would have been greatly disappointed at one time or another. Because we trusted the Lord, we made it through terrific moments and trials. We learned more about each other and ourselves. And we grew in our relationship with God. The object of our faith must be God, and no matter the details of our experiences, in the end, where we put our faith will matter more than anything else.
I’m giving my parents a book detailing hiking trails in Missouri for Christmas. I hope that with each step they and I take on future trails, we’ll climb higher and higher into a faith-filled relationship with God.