Continued from Friday’s “Buck Up Little Camper!– Part One.” Read that entry before reading today’s.
We sat at our picnic spot in Indians Gardens, 3,000 feet into the Grand Canyon. With the canyon’s rock stratifications clearly marking geological divisions, it was as if we rested inside a gigantic prehistoric urn. The massive canyon walls stretched skyward. Ahead several more miles lay the Colorado River, the genesis of it all. It was tempting to stay in on our lush little oasis and savor the sights, but we had to hike out before sunset.
By now the morning’s shade and chilly temperatures had been replaced by plentiful sunshine and temps in the mid-80s. We began the long journey up and within hiking a few hundred feet I realized this was going to be more difficult that I expected. The sun's powerful rays sapped my strength. Sweat dripped off my brow. The ominous warning of an experienced guide we'd met rang in my ears, “Be careful of the sun.” Tales my husband shared from the book he'd been reading, “Death in the Grand Canyon” filled my thoughts. The Grand Canyon presents unique dangers to visitors and hikers. Every year people die here. I felt weak thinking about it.
My son and I usually pull up the rear of our hiking quartet. He wasn’t feeling great that day and lagged more than normal. I turned to see what was keeping him. He sat on a rock with body language that proclaimed, “I don’t want to do it!”
I set my misgivings aside and focused on the task at hand. “Buddy, we don’t have a choice. You can do it. Let’s keep going,” I gently encouraged—with little effect. So Mr. “Buck Up Little Camper” delivered his own version of a pep talk. Upward progress continued, albeit slowly.
Step by dusty step we moved forward. Little Bear and I in the rear and my daughter and husband ahead. My daughter's turning into an excellent hiker. Clad in her cute hiking outfit (of course!) she traveled steadily with little complaint. She and her dad chatted away, playing games and sharing observations. Snippets of their conversations drifted down to my ears like music. (Any meaningful conversation taking place between a teenage girl and her dad are rare treasures indeed. You just never know when the “moment” is right!)
We reached the first rest stop much sooner than anticipated and were encouraged to press on. Up. Up. Up. We reached the second rest stop. We were making progress. Up. Up. Up. The rim was getting closer. Promises of extra-large ice cream cones were offered as motivation. Soon the goal was in sight. We had less than an hour to go. The path didn’t get any easier, but knowing the end was near made the journey so much more bearable.
Eight hours after we started we climbed out of the Grand Canyon tired, dusty, hungry and so proud of our accomplishment! We did it. (And we only hiked half-way. Imagine what a feat it would be to go all the way to the bottom!)
Half-expecting congratulatory well-wishers to welcome us back, Grand Canyon Village bustled with tourists thoroughly unaware of our absence and nonplussed by our emergence. They scurried about taking in the sights, buying souvenirs and snapping obligatory pictures before their buses departed.
As we sat on the rim wall eating our ice cream rewards, I watched the passersby and pondered, You came here, but did you really see? And experience? Do you realize how much more there is to this place than this?
I think this is what Jesus meant when He said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
Jesus’ dusty sandals brought Him to a gate so small only He could find—and enter. By doing so He revealed a path for the faithful to follow. For those early disciples who did—Paul, Peter, Barnabus, Stephen, Timothy and so on—the journey challenged them in ways they had never imagined. They experienced scorn, ridicule, danger, suffering, discomfort, uncertainty, loneliness and rejection.
Did they ever plop down on a rock and cry out, “I can’t do this, it’s too hard!” Probably. But they encouraged one another and pressed on step by dusty step with the end goal in sight. Why? Were they nuts or gluttons for punishment? No. As hard as their journey was the Spirit sustained and guided them.
And they knew the promised reward at the end made it all worth it.
What does our path look like? If it’s crowed, comfortable, clean and carefree chances are it’s pretty wide too. It may lead to success in the eyes of the world, but it leads to destruction in the eyes of our Father.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
It’s easy to miss the small gate. The narrow road is often overlooked, ignored or rebuffed. It’s dirty and difficult. It challenges us and makes us uncomfortable. It might be risky or dangerous. It’s unpopular and often lonely.
But Jesus promises it’s worth it. Plus He's sent the Holy Spirit to guide and sustain us. And an occasional oasis to delight and refresh us.
I am so eager to take the narrow road when it comes to life’s adventures. But am I so bold when it comes to following Jesus? Are my boots dirty? Or am I riding a tour bus, enjoying the sights, collecting snapshots and souvenirs but missing the real experience? Does Jesus look at me and say, "You came to me, but do you really see—and experience? Do you realize how much more there is to Me than this?"
Lord, I want to be bold in my faith. Show me the way and give me the courage to follow.