Mountains draw us with a particular fascination. They draw us upward, drawing unknown strength and endurance out of us. Last weekend I joined some friends for our annual backpacking trip into the Sierras, the “Range of Light” as John Muir called them. But this weekend they lay under a pall of smoke from the Butte Fire, which has reduced 72,000 acres and 180 homes to ash. We stopped in Sonora to get some gear on Friday and a layer of ash covered the town under a gray-brown sky. We went further into the mountains, hoping to clear the smoke.
Stanislaus Peak, at 11,233 feet, drew us to the same campsite we stayed at last year. Three of us set out for the top on Saturday morning, but after a few hours two turned back for lack of water while I went on. I cleared two ridges and saw a peak that seemed to match the shape on my map, although it was in the wrong place. So I slogged up that grade, but realized with a sinking heart that I was wasting my strength—it was the wrong peak. Exhausted I pulled myself to the top and gazed at Stanislaus Peak, a mile away, a thousand feet down, and two thousand feet back up. It was 3pm, and the smoke was consuming the daylight.
But God seemed to say to me: “you have time to get to the right peak. Give it a try.” So I went down and began the grind up. It was almost a mystical experience, surrendering oneself to the labor, not counting the steps or the altitude, but mechanically, trustfully, pushing on. And new life came into me. I began breathing more deeply and taking longer strides. In 90 minutes I was at the top of Stanislaus Peak.
When you think you cannot, God says “give it a try.” And you get your second wind. The breath of God fills your sails, and you complete your course. We do not know what strength, what joy, God will breathe into us if we but persevere in the task at hand, be it a marriage, a job, an illness. Oh what joy to feel that strength coming into us, and to reach that bright peak!