About 6 years ago, I climbed a mountain in very southern Mexico, perhaps we were even in Guatemala at times. I had never hiked in mountains before but thought, hey, they say it’s an easy hike, so I’m good. What was failed to be mentioned was that really, it was an expert type hike. Like major inclines for basically 70% of it, and that it would take hours. Or that I’d be in the clouds, in ankle deep mud, and that I’d truly question if I was going to die. That I’d ask God to take me home more than once. (I’m a little dramatic…it happens.) I wish I were exaggerating. At whatever 1000’s of feet we were at, I’d also not been prepared for the fact I wouldn’t be able to take a deep breath of air, or that when crying and hiking hyperventilating does indeed occur.
Obviously I survived.
That hike changed my life. But I remember on hour 3 or 4, the intense disappointment for every bend we went around, that there was another bend. I got to the point where I would feel this intense hopelessness at every bend because still, STILL we were not at the top. When we finally came around the very last bend and I saw a village, and I saw people, I began to weep. And by weep, I mean ugly crying. The relief that flooded over me that this was over. I didn’t have to walk anymore. I could catch my breath. I could let my body relax. I have never felt a relief to the extent that it created such strong emotion like that.
I compare my relationship with hope with that hike.
I am in the wilderness and I walk a long, dusty road right now. Twice I’ve dreamed about this, and while I’m not a huge, oh hey…God gave me a dream type, I think these were. It looks like the Sahara and the trail is windy. It’s dusty. It’s dirty. There is not water. Everything is brown. And worse, I’m alone. Or at least seeing with my eyes in the dream, I look alone, with the occasional person in the distance that I always watch, and I never call out to them. I feel hopeless for every bend that I turn on, because there is more road. And hope leaves me. I feel hopeless for my dreams that I always felt were from God, and if I ever really heard his voice. I feel hopeless for my family as they struggle with so much, and I wonder if prayers do any good at all for them. I mean, I hoped for healing for my dad to the end, and that didn’t happen. I feel hopeless in this faith. Some days I wonder if anything of what I have believed is real. Simply, my life feels hopeless right now.
Maybe this is it. My life will always be the wilderness. Maybe.
But here is what I do know. Hope, at least for me, stubbornly refuses to let me go. And I have fought her, I’ve wrestled with her, and over and over all I hear is this very till small whisper…“Hold on a little longer, sweet girl. Walk…just walk a little longer. If you can’t walk, then crawl. Sit, take a breath on the road. You are not left alone.”
I am unable to give up hope, and I have wanted to. Others would have by now.
So I am limping currently down that dusty road, and lately, I have run into others there. Friends have come alongside me, and they offer to carry hope for what I struggle hoping for. I’m not foolish enough to say I have my shit together anymore, I’ll tell you I struggle. Oddly, I’ve found these tears to be something that frees me, even though I think they make many uncomfortable. I can’t care about that anymore.
Lamenting in this place has been freedom for me.
Isaiah 40:31 in the NIV version says, “they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength…” and today, that verse and the surrounding verses to that, have been some water in a dry, dry place for me along with those friends who have helped me keep walking.
I struggled with a way to end this, I always struggle with a way to end my ramblings, but for fellow wilderness walkers, I’m on that road with you. I understand the frustration and the tears, and the anger and the pain. I do. My prayer for myself lately, is the simple statement asking for hope to arise in me. That she would be bright like the sun. I offer the same simple, maybe ridiculous prayer to you who I may never meet or talk to. That hope would arise. Whether that road ends tomorrow, or the walking goes on for years.
That just as the sun rises every morning after the dark, that hope would so the same for you and you would hear the whisper that you aren’t alone there.
I’m not alone there either.