Sunday, November 17, 2013

For Those Who Wait

On my calendar for this month is the last photo of this post.  I love that photo so much.  Sure, it's a pretty picture, but that's not the half of it.  I remember that hike very vividly.  It was so long, so hot, so dusty.  The scenery was nice enough, but absolutely nothing prepared me for looking back on it and seeing what it looked like from that perspective.  So, I've been thinking about this post because of that. I've been thinking about it because Halloween has already been and Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming and those can be tough.  I've been thinking about waiting because we are approaching Advent.  But it took a friend talking about her wait right now that made me say that I should maybe repost this.  So I am, but with some changes.  Because it's my post and I can if I want to.  And because my perspective has changed some.  Original is here, if you're interested.  Praying for all of you who are struggling and waiting right now, whatever that may be for you.

Many of the things that we strive for in life starts with the promise of something beautiful. Perhaps it is waiting for a spouse or for children.  Perhaps it is trying to live out that vocation faithfully.  I won't even try to list everything, but they would not be the deepest desires of our hearts if they were not calling to us with such beauty and infinite worth.

This hike starts in the cool of the morning, when everyone is energized and excited and ready to go (please, even if you are not a morning person, I defy you to not be energized and excited at the beginning of a hike!)  No one expects the journey to be easy, exactly, but we do expect it to be worth it. We don't really question if we will make it. Who starts a journey with that thought in mind?

Yet if you have hiked long enough (or waited and struggled long enough) you learn to realize that the outcome is not a given. You may run low on supplies, you may have bad weather move in, someone may get a blister. If you're smart, you have to learn that you have to turn around sometimes. You also know that it is possible that it could turn really bad. There are no guarantees.  There can be injury and death.  Most of those dangers can be mitigated by the right preparation, but stepping out on to the trail means assuming the weight of those dangers.

This particular hike, my friend and I drove over an hour outside of Moab to go to Canyonlands National Park. It was a fairly remote location, so there were comparatively few people at the trailhead. Those that were there knew what faced them.  Beautiful scenery, and a wonderful hike, but also hard work that required the appropriate preparation in order to reach the destination and return safely to the car. When you are hiking upwards of 11 miles in the desert as opposed to 1/2 mile, the stakes go way up.

I only wish you could have been there with me. I can't describe what it's like to be out there with almost no one around. Most of the time, it was just my friend and I. It was hot, and we were working hard, and we got blisters and we sweated, and our feet ached. We carried a good amount of weight on our back, including lots of water, food and layers.  There was a fine dust that we kicked up with every step, and I wondered if the walk would ever end.

I thought of you, my friends who wait.  I know that you did not pick this journey.  I know that it seems hard and seems like it may never end and you may not make it to the destination. I wish I could tell you that you'll get there eventually, but the truth is, some of us won't get to the place we'd planned on going. It's always a disappointment, but I've yet to regret going on a hike and how it has helped me to grow, despite that disappointment.

I also thought of my friends that are no longer waiting, but have waited. You know how hard the journey is and you have made it to the end. I see in you that you know that the destination and return are not a given. You get it, and you appreciate everything so much more as a result.

And for those of you that are still waiting? I have more bad news. Most of us that get out and do longer hikes and get away from the crowds, we usually are somewhat battered and broken as a result. There are injuries to nurse and scars that tell of the great (and not so great) times that we've had. Most are minor enough in nature, but you don't do this kind of thing and come though without being changed for it.

Anyway, this particular hike was to Druid Arch. It involved walking through some narrow areas, scrambling over and around rocks, and trudging through fine sand that made every step take twice the energy. Most of the day, we followed a wash up through a canyon. We could look up and see some great views at times.

And often there are beautiful, simple moments along the way.

 Have you ever, in the journey of waiting, had a feeling of hope so strong you almost touch it? Then you realize, hope notwithstanding, you still have a long ways to go? My friends, here it is in picture.

I didn't recognize it at first, because it's sideways to us, but the tower to the right by the tree is Druid Arch. First I was so excited, because I realized I was almost to the end of the hike. But then my excitement was dampened, because I realized that the arch was still quite high above where we were. I had a sneaking suspicion that there was still a fair amount of work to do to get to our destination.

I was right.

First, we walked up rock that was steep enough I didn't know for sure if we'd be able to walk on it at first. We could. Then there was a ladder and a bar that you could hold onto to get you to the next platform. The arch was closer, but still high.  And that's when the trail got steep. You know how it is when you're waiting? Sometimes you trudge along, putting one step in front of the other. Sometimes it's relatively easy. Sometimes you have to stop and take a rest because you can't go anymore. Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes there are intensely beautiful moments. Sometimes it's freaking hot, and you're dusty and you're tired, and why aren't we there yet, dammit?!

And sometimes it's like that trail was in that moment. Steep and ridiculous.  This "trail" did not look like something that sane people would attempt.  When I tried to follow the trail with my eyes, I could not figure it out.  At this point in the hike, the arch was blocked from view.  I was about ready to shrug and turn around, but followed my friend instead. All you could do was a few steps at a time, then stop to re-evaluate and see where the next step was.  Everything was so twisted and hidden from view until you were on top of it. 

But, then.

There was the moment that I have not personally experienced, but that I have heard in the hearts of those who have waited.

I couldn't find the next step. I looked up and it wasn't there, and I finally looked to the side and I saw the step. I was so focused on the trail, that I was only looking at the rocks at my feet until I saw my friend grinning at me and my difficulty with finding the trail. I realized what was going on when I raised my eyes a fraction higher.

This is the "Holy crap! It's there!" moment. Seriously, I stopped right there and pulled out the camera before I took another step. I thought of all those trudging along, not realizing anything would be different about that day, but it became the day that they finally got the call for an adoption, or they finally got the pregnancy test that came up positive.

Pictures really can't convey how huge and awesome this thing is, though here's one with my friend walking towards it to try to give some idea. It was worth the loads of sweat, the sore feet, and the miles in the fine sandy spots that stole all the energy.

Here's the thing.  A year after the hike, I don't remember the first moment of seeing the arch like I remember the moment of turning around and looking back the way we had come.

I liked looking back where we came from, only this time my view was from above looking down, rather from the canyon floor looking up. Our wash, which seemed wide enough when we were walking, was only a dark crack in the view. It reminded me that sometimes the perspective that we have during the journey will not make as much sense until we get to the end. I also thought of this incredibly beautiful sight that we shared with only two other people.  A long journey is definitely the road less traveled because of the work and the sweat and the pain involved, but the rewards are worth the effort and so few get to experience it!  And I absolutely believe that here and/or in heaven, the rewards of waiting will be worth it. Further, at that time, we may actually begin to consider ourselves the lucky ones, whether we get what we initially wanted or not.

The trail was below the bottom whitish layer. Also, I think you get the idea of why the area we were in is referred to as the Needles District.
So, my friends who are still waiting, this one's for you. I'm praying that your "holy crap" moment is soon, but more than that, I am praying that when you turn around, you will be in awe of the place that this journey has taken you.  That all the dust and heat and weariness and soreness will have combined to work a transformation in you that you did not see in the drudgery of simply putting one foot in front of the other during the hardest of times, but that you will see and be in awe of when you reach a new place of perspective.


  1. This is one of the most beautiful posts I've ever read...thank you. I never realized what an amazing metaphor hiking is for life! You betcha I'm going to think of this on every hike I ever take thank you, and prayers for you in your time of waiting too!

  2. Beautiful, not just the pictures but your words as well! Have you ever watched the show Motion, I think you would like it. It is about hiking and exploring little known gems around the country. Side note : I start a journey thinking I may not make it :p what can I say I am a melancholic ;)

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  4. That was me above signed in under the wrong account! Best post EVER! Filled with truth and wisdom of someone who waits well. You are in my continued prayers!

  5. I am in tears! You describe the wait so perfectly! And looking back on where you came - so absolutely true!