Lately I’ve taken up long, off-trail hiking in the mountains. Whenever I’m feeling anxious or upset, I drive to the canyon and I just climb. It doesn’t matter where so much as it matters that I’m far away from the movement of the city and that I can keep going upward, that I can feel limestone beneath my fingers and leap over deep crevices and curl up on high, rocky outcrops to view the world the same way I imagine God views it. There I can breathe and relax and remember who I am.
I’ve run to the mountains a lot this month, and I often wish I could just stay up there. Life seems so much more simple and vibrant among trees and peaks and streams.
Out of the mountains, under a thick layer of grimy inversion, my life is not what I thought it would be. I thought I would be working for the church, writing magazine content. I thought, maybe naively, that I would be close to getting a job out of the internship that I left. I thought I’d be in a happy, progressing relationship right now. I thought I would be living my dreams, finally doing something with my degree, falling in love, travelling to far off places, seeing amazing things.
I started doing some of those things, but in an instant, everything changed drastically and unexpectedly. My immediate reaction has been to close up and retreat into myself and compare my life, and it’s as if I’m in high school all over again, trying to find my purpose and my worth, seeking, for the first time in years, long-term validation from sources that cannot provide it. In high school, that validation came from achievements and awards and good grades. Right now that validation comes from my appearance and social media and text messages. Lately, I sometimes stupidly think that if I at least look attractive and make people laugh at or appreciate all of the things I share online and have someone take the time to talk to me, then I’ll feel like I’m enough. But it’s shallow and temporary, like a water pail that has tiny holes in the bottom. The water might sit there for a little bit, but soon it will fall through the bottom and you’ll have to keep refilling and refilling and refilling over and over again to feel like you’re enough.
I’ve never had a setback last this long, this extensively, and with this level of not feeling enough, and to be honest, the only thing I know how to do is to endure. How to wake up in the morning and function. I’m not a great cyclist or a great climber or a great runner, but I’m good at pedaling through severe pain, hanging from a wall and regrouping my energy to leap past a hard pitch, and moving, even if it’s slowly, to get to the finish. Right now, my drafter, my belayer, and my running partner is the Lord. He’s the only one who both can and is willing to stick this thing out with me. I don’t know where we’re going, I don’t know how long it’s going to take, and I don’t know what kind of a person I’m going to be at the end of it, but I know that when I pray for comfort, He’s there. When I pray for a friend, He is there. And He cares more than anyone. When, like the distraught father of a possessed son in the New Testament, I am weak of the faith that things will get better and just begging Him to help me, He has compassion on me. He’s the only constant source I have for that in my life right now, and I find myself praying dozens of times a day to maintain a sense that things will be alright.
Every day, if I’m not climbing a literal mountain, I’m climbing an emotional and mental mountain. It’s strenuous, I’m physically alone, and I stop a lot because I’m struggling and hurting, but there is no way to go besides up. If I go back down this thing, Satan has won. All of my insecurities about myself have won. And at the end of the day, I want to be the one winning. I want to be the one sitting on top of my mountain and feeling a cold breeze slip through my skin and hair and looking at how far I’ve come with tears in my eyes because I’ve waited for so long just to finish. Just to become someone amazing who doesn’t feel amazing for any other reason than that she’s a daughter of God.
I’ve spent a lot of tears and heartache already making my way up. When I get there, I want those miles I’ve traveled to unfold beneath me like a road cutting through a deep canyon. I want to say that I found my faith rooted in the climb up and not just the top. I want to cry, not because it hurt, but because it was worth it.
That’s what I keep moving for.