A few weeks back 3 of the kids and I went on a group hike up Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado and the 2nd highest peak in the contiguous United States. We rose at 3:30 A.M. so we could reach the trail head by 5 A.M. We were trying to avoid afternoon rain showers.
It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the time with friends and the gorgeous creation of our LORD. By 9 A.M. we were close to tree line, and by 11 A.M. we were well up the shoulder of the mountain. But for us (me) who had never done this sort of thing, it was a hard climb. Really hard (even though Elbert is not one of the more difficult mountains). At one point, we climbed a section of rock that was so steep I could hold my arm straight out in front of me and touch the trail I was ascending. We worked our way up, step by step, until we reached the summit. But it was a false summit. The GPS on my Droid showed that we still had over 580 vertical feet to go… so we kept pressing on.
Many things went through my mind that day as my legs ached and my back complained (I was carrying the backpack with survival gear for the 4 of us). One of the most frequent was that I didn’t really need to make it all the way to the top… it wasn’t really THAT important. Probably true, but I felt a catch in my spirit about stopping. Melinda (almost 19) was ahead with a group of her friends. Faith (9 years old) was with her… her hunter orange hat making her easy to spot. And Caleb (my 12 year old son) was right behind me. I considered the lessons they’d learn about perseverance, pushing through pain and emotion, and having the opportunity to accomplish something that many others never do. Those wouldn’t be learned as well if Dad bailed out before the end. So I kept pressing on.
We made it all 14,433 feet to the top. It was great. After 40 minutes for lunch and a few photos we headed down.
Did you know that you use an entirely different set of muscles descending than you do ascending? It hurts. My toes were constantly sliding down to the front of my shoes (blisters). I rediscovered a knee injury from 20 years ago. I seriously stubbed my toe on a tree stump sticking out of the path. But there was no other choice, I kept pressing on.
It was a great and miserable experience, all at the same time. One I probably won’t do again. But it served me well as a modern parable.
What lessons did I learn?
- Life (parenting, marriage, work) requires perseverance, even when difficulty is present or on the horizon.
- There are others counting on you and looking to you, even if you don’t think so.
- Being intentional as a leader (parent, head of the household) requires you to think through the impact your decisions will have on those you lead.
- Often, after the hard work of perseverance is completed, the view is worth it all.