Steep Trails

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
(Philippians 4:13)

Last week, I had the opportunity to get away for a short hike in the Santa Cruz mountains in a little park area called Pogonip — how it got its name is a story for another day. My sister and I were walking along a flat trail when we were faced with a couple of choices for the path ahead. One headed to the right, continuing our easy meandering trail which appealed to me. I just wasn’t in the mood for a challenge. However, my sister chose the steep trail. When I started complaining about how difficult it was, she said, “Just wait until you see all the secret surprises ahead. And she was right — on that path less traveled were some sacred sites. The first was a labyrinth nestled in a grove of trees, just waiting for someone to enter the holy place. Not too much farther along was a fresh spring that fed into a koi pool — again just waiting for us to pause in gratitude. Then, just a bit farther than that was a spectacular rock grotto that had become a sanctuary for many. Rock monuments had been built along with notes tucked inside those memorials. Each of the spaces felt sacred, as if God’s stamp was upon them. And we would not have discovered them unless we had chosen to accept the steep path.

I thought a lot about that steep path that I wanted to avoid. Let me be perfectly honest — I would much rather have taken the easy trail, but my sister was right — that was not where the surprises were hidden. Sometimes, it is the steep and difficult paths of life that yield the most powerful experiences of God’s love and grace.

Take a moment to think back to some of your deepest life challenges. What did you learn about life? What did you discover about yourself? How did God’s presence meet you? As I answered those questions for myself, I realized that God has always provided me enough strength for each moment as I have trudged up the difficult ascents.

I have discovered that the sweetness of life is often found in the midst of the most arduous challenges. And when I have stopped long enough to embrace the emotions that met me in the quiet places, I have often sensed God presence reassuring me — “You can do this. I will be with you.”

Rev. Dr. Deb Kaiser-Cross
Minister for Congregational Care

For each one who is traversing a difficult life challenge:
Eternal One, so often we want to believe that our faith will secure us from harm and to to trust you is to be insulated from the harsh realities of living, but we confess that these are the wishful myths of faith. In our more honest moments, we recognize that it is in the struggles of living that we are most open to your grace. Pain is often the precursor to healing; despair is often the pathway to hope; death gives birth to everlasting life. It is in our weakness that we experience your strength most powerfully. Lord, take our prayers, sifting through them so that you might be at work molding our characters to be more like Jesus, for it is in his ways that we walk. Amen.