I climbed a mountain recently, and it brought to mind all kinds of comparisons to my experiences this summer, spirituality and life in general.
The Grouse Grind is a 1.8-mile climb/hike/race in North Vancouver that ascends 2,800 feet via 2,830 stairs stuck into Grouse Mountain. It takes the average person anywhere from 90 to 120 minutes to climb to the top. The record time is 25 minutes and 1 second. If you were wondering, I bought a T-shirt with this information on it. My time fit somewhere in the average window, and one of my teammates ran up in a mere 49 minutes. He is good at most things.
Grouse is beautiful. There are at least a million tall trees, packed densely enough to block direct sunlight but still allow it to filter in and make swirly green patterns in the misty sky. The path is organic with a few twists and turns, mostly made of wood and stone. While we were there, the temperature stayed under 70 degrees. It was perfect.
Except it was really hard!
I expected the muscle fatigue from the endless upward stepping, but I didn’t anticipate the actual cardio workout. I was a little unprepared—and dumb, apparently. I spent the first eighth of the climb in disbelief that the mountain path would be a constant Stairmaster. At the quarter mark, my heart cried. My legs were already slightly numb. And there was absolutely no way that was less than half of a mile! Halfway felt like it should have, definitely, been the end. Many people stopped there to take pictures and water breaks—mostly water breaks. Some sat, while others stretched.
The second half of the climb was physically more difficult. But it was expected and almost familiar. I had spent enough time on the trail to generally understand the rest of it. I knew which steps were easier to take, and how to save energy, and when to quicken the pace, and when to slow up. I somehow missed the three-quarter marker; so, the arrival at the summit was a pleasant surprise/relief.
This summer has been like the Grouse Grind. I won’t spell out the majority of the similarities, but I’m past the halfway point here. It has been new and exciting but also challenging and difficult. I’ve wanted to turn around, take breaks, avoid the uncomfortable, complain about lack of progress, hope for an end, hold on to something, and understand the easiest, most direct way to the goal.
We have taken several small steps in what we hope is kingdom expansion. We have cast wide, sensing a couple of promising tugs.
But on many days, progress is so minimal or not tangible. I often have difficulty understanding what God is doing in this progressive city of great wealth and comfort. I often do not know what to ask for here, and so I beg God simply to have mercy on this people. He has been faithful to teach me much and been patient with me in my unfaithfulness and lacking. I cannot be humbled enough by this.
Ashley Richardson, a student at the University of Texas in Austin, is serving in Vancouver with Go Now Missions.