Tears in a Bottle
Updated: Jan 30, 2020
What I learned climbing the Grand Tetons for the Freedom Challenge
I was not prepared for this mountain! Months of daily training on the flat trails of Florida was not enough to take on the three day hike of Wyoming’s Grand Tetons. Exhaustion and anger seethed in me. Separated from my pack of 12 women, I made my way back alone. The day had started with great aplomb as all new adventures do. I was excited to be one of 160 women taking part in Operation Mobilization’s Freedom Challenge to benefit victims of human trafficking. The setting was gorgeous, my heart was glad and I thought my body and mind were ready! I would learn differently through the course of each day.
At the end of day one, all I could think of was the bears we saw on the way in, that I had no “bear spray” and I couldn’t seem to move fast enough to stay with my group. Fortunately the bears were none the wiser! I entertained the notion of quitting that night. I reached in my backpack and took out a large stone from the hike that day. When we had stopped for quiet time devotion, I noticed it at my feet and picked it up wondering if there was a message in this stone. I sat by a stream and thought about fear. What was I aiming at? What was my Goliath in life?
Grudgingly, I woke up before dawn to get my achy body ready for the day two hike. Our new leader surprised me with a promotion. Since I was the slow poke, I would lead our pack and set the pace! I am laughing as I write this! I was honored and flustered at the same time! One of the ladies quipped a Bible verse at me, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first!” Interestingly, the day before all I could think of was myself, my weaknesses and being left behind. As the leader, all I could think of was looking back and making sure everyone else was doing okay. This was no longer about me but about not letting them down. Our leader asked us to pick up a sizable stone and carry it in our hands as we hiked. The stone represented a burden. This seemed easy enough except it started to rub and annoy me, especially when holding hiking sticks. At quiet time devotion we were told to throw that burden into the stream. I could see it through the crystal clear water lying in the bedrock. What was it trying to show me? The stillness of the water was my strongest impression and that is when I looked at the cover of my journal and saw that it had a scripture about this very thing. It said “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46.10.
Day two was a more physically challenging hike. We rounded the edge of high cliffs, ventured into thick, long underbrush and turned into new areas with bears ever present. The lady behind me remarked how brave I was. I guess because I would be the first to encounter a bear or a snake. Somehow I was not afraid though. We ended triumphantly and all together, singing beautiful hymnals as we ascended up and out of the day’s trail.
On day three, our group was bumped up to an advanced trail with a 3,000 foot elevation. This was more than we all signed up for. Once again, I was placed as the leader. We were told that the first hour of the hike would be walked in silence so we could meditate on what the God was trying to teach us. It was very cold that morning. We were all sore with aching backs and feet. There was fear but resolve in the air. We only had a certain time to get to the very top of the mountain or we would have to turn back to catch our bus. As we all lined up and headed into that dense forest of amazingly tall trees, I was overcome with emotion. I could not see what was ahead and the fear of how hard this day was going to be made me start to cry. Could I get our group up in time? There was a great reward in the end and I did not want us to miss it. It was hours of nonstop ascent. Midway my feet started to really bother me. We stopped for a short break and I took off my boots. The ladies gasped at the sight of my feet. I had all my toes wrapped heavily and individually in tape. I successfully kept my feet from blistering but by day three, my feet were so overprotected they felt like they were being strangled. There is definitely a lesson there! I took off some of the tape to let my toes breath, adjusted my laces and started off again. The sign that we were near the trail end was a glorious sight! Instantly, the landscape started to change. The trail grew flat, the air crisp and boulders strewn the landscape. I had this sense of homecoming that I cannot explain and this made me emotional again. And then we beheld the reward…Amphitheater Lake! I sat alone for my quiet time devotional and took it all in. The majesty of those snow-capped mountains spoke to me about God’s strength and power. Nestled within them were still waters. I do not think I have ever seen water so very still. Yesterday’s verse came to mind, “Be still and know that I am God”. And then the representation of what I was really seeing hit me hard. There is a Bible verse in Psalm 56:8 where David praises God saying, “You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.” I was being given a glimpse of heaven. I was beholding a lake of tears. Cradled in those mountains were a representation of the tears of women and children we were there to hike for as well as the sufferings of all mankind. I thanked God that no matter what we go through in life, He sees us. He captures our laments in His bottle and holds them close...like the mountains support the waters. Through the stillness, He gives us His peace.