Falling Off the Mountain
By Chris Carpenter
-- With each hesitant, unstable step my heart began pounding faster
and faster. Wanting to slow its increasing merry go round pace, I stopped
my progress frequently. As I looked from east to west and back to my present
location I could only see silence. The stillness of my wooded surroundings
swallowed up my thoughts as I battled my conscious that was barking "give
up." Occasionally, the whisper of the wind broke up the inner battle
between my sanity and paralyzing fear.
"Hey, are you alright?" asked my dear old friend and hiking partner
John, as he broke up the utter deafness of the moment. "If we don’t
pick up our pace we won’t make it to the shelter by nightfall."
Back in the expansive wilderness of the Appalachian Trail for the first
time in a year and a half, I could hardly form a response due to my parched,
cotton ball-dry lips.
"I’m not quite sure," I hesitantly replied, just four miles
into day one of a planned four day hike through the mountains of northern
Georgia. "I’m getting nervous about being out here in the wilderness.
I don’t think we should continue."
"Why?" John countered. "It is a beautiful day, the temperature
is perfect, and we are carrying much less weight in our backpacks this time
around. It couldn’t be better."
But it wasn’t better. For several days leading up to the hike I had
conjured up fleeting thoughts of danger lurking behind every tree and beneath
each rock. In my mind, our self-induced enemy was just waiting to pounce
on two fairly inexperienced hikers who answered to the names Chris and John.
Despite feeling a bit more savvy due to a three day hike 18 months earlier;
I still couldn’t digest the notion that we had never faced any true
adversity on the trail. We had never seen a bear, heard a rattlesnake, or
been forced to find quick shelter from a lightning storm. Yet, here we were,
two thirty something desk jockeys ambling straight up the side of Blood Mountain,
one of the tallest peaks in Georgia. Even the name "Blood Mountain" wasn’t
setting very well with me.
After much hesitation I agreed to continue. We had both invested several
hundred dollars in this trip and I didn’t want that money to go to
waste. In addition, I knew that John desired nothing less than completing
our intended journey.
The higher we ascended toward the fog shrouded peak the lower my spirits
fell. I became mentally consumed with comforting thoughts of sleeping in
my own bed, eating lobster at a seaside café, and going for long romantic
walks with my wife. But every time I lifted my head from the trail I failed
to see the beauty of God’s creation all around me. All I could visually
muster were angry thoughts of why there were so many trees in this forest
and why did they have to be so green?
The further we trekked the more intensely negative my thoughts became. Eventually,
we spotted another hiker making his way along the craggy trail toward us.
About 50 years old, the slender, graying man navigated the terrain with the
aid of two hiking sticks. He carried no backpack and was not carrying any
water, a necessity on the Appalachian Trail.
As he approached, I blurted, "Good morning, how are you?"
"Hello," he replied softly.
"Nice day today. Where are you headed?" I asked.
No reply. He glided past us and continued on his journey without hesitation.
Nice manners I thought. Here we are in the middle of the wilderness without
any other human around for miles and the best he could do was whisper hello?
I was prepared to tell him my life story including that embarrassing moment
in sixth grade when I ripped the seat of my pants during recess in front
of a group of pretty girls including Janet Norsworthy, a classmate I secretly
fancied. All he could muster was a soft hello? What kind of a man is he I
That was it, I had had enough. I was ready to toss my backpack over the
edge of the next available cliff. With each ensuing step my fear and anxiety
became more desperate and intense.
Meanwhile, John was seemingly oblivious to my angst. He trudged along admiring
the wildflowers that grew abundantly along the edges of the trail. Occasionally,
he would stop, dig his camera out of his backpack and snap a picture of these
The further we hiked onward into the wilderness the further I journeyed
toward complete panic. Finally, as we rounded a bend and saw the steepest
portion of the trail we had encountered yet looming above us like a scene
from "Lord of the Rings", I broke down.
"I just can’t do this," I snorted. "I feel like I am
failing you but I just can’t continue with this hike. I am so sorry.
I didn’t intend to drag you out here into these woods to just turn
around and go back."
"You are not failing me but I want to know why you feel this way," John
"I don’t know," I said. "I am fine with hiking out
here during the day. I think it is the idea of being in the wilderness at
night and not knowing what is out there around me. I guess it is fear of
the unknown, not knowing what could happen to me."
"Kind of like life," said John.
Kind of like life. How right he was. In my selfish haste I just expected
God to automatically assuage my fears. Sort of like the cruise control kicking
in on an automobile. But I was missing one rather large component of the
cruise control function. It just doesn’t automatically sense it is
the right time to step in and function. It has to be asked. In other words,
when we want the cruise control to work we must first push a button to activate
As Christians, the peace of God does not produce an absence of conflict,
but instead the ability to cope with it. But you must allow God to give you
the strength to do it. I am a prime example of trying to navigate through
life on my terms. As hard as I try to hand the reins over to God and let
Him lead me, there is often a part of me that thinks (usually subconsciously)
I can handle my fears and desires on my own. That is not how
our relationship with Him should work.
In John 14:27 Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give
to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid."
The burdens of life’s pressures will continue every day. Sometimes
our daily lives feel like they are too much for us to bare. But they aren’t
too much as long as we rely on our heavenly Father.
This verse eloquently illustrates that the end result of the Holy Spirit’s
work in our lives is deep and lasting peace. Have you ever actively sought
chaos for your life? I hope not.
I believe deep and lasting peace is something that every one seeks. However,
do not be confused. The type of peace Jesus mentions in this passage is not
to be confused with worldly peace (defined as the absence of conflict). The
peace that the apostle John writes about is not confident assurance in any
circumstance but the absence of needing to fear the presence or the future.
Whatever the circumstance God wants us to experience His peace. We need
to always put our trust in Him regardless of the outcome. It is important
to remember that we should always seek to change those things we are able
to change, accept what we have no power to change, and let God determine
the final result.
I believe that this entire hiking trip was nothing more than an opportunity
for God to show me this all-important concept. Perhaps there is a similar
circumstance in your life where God is reaching out to you but you are desperately
trying to navigate the stormy seas on your own.
Based on a mountain top experience I would recommend letting go and start
me what you think
Portions from The Transformer, study Bible used in this
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