This past Friday night at about eleven thirty, some friends invited me to go climb Mount Olympus the next day. I’m not that big of a hiker, but I really want to be. I’ve been feeling like living in Utah and going to Olympus High School kind of means I have to do this baby at least once in my lifetime. So, being the crazy lady that I am, I responded with, “Yes, absolutely!”
As soon as I hit send I felt my stomach do a small backflip. A year ago if I were asked to do this I would jump at the chance and reach the top of the mountain with what I am sure would have been a lot of energy! But because I had been spending the last nine months trying to fix health issues that I was still dealing with I was feeling a little concerned for what was ahead. Over this frustrating time, I have often found myself praying to my Heavenly father to open my eyes to the learning he would have me gain from this experience. In this moment I saw this hike as a small model of our lives here on earth and the trials we experience. I knew that it was something that the Lord could use to teach me.
My alarm went off at three thirty the following morning and was accompanied with a text from my friend Ely that read, “I just realized how insane we are for waking up this early to climb a freaking mountain.” For a moment the lazy part of my almost hit snooze and went back to sleep, but the Red in my personality knew what was best for me and pushed me out of my bed and out the door. Sometimes I think of myself in the pre-existence in a similar way. The plan was set before and I knew that what I was about to do was totally nuts and totally worth it at the same time. I wonder if just as I was about to leave I would have thought to myself or a friend would have said, “I just realized how insane we are for leaving our loving Heavenly Father to go to a place where we will be faced with so many difficult challenges.” But the understanding we had helped us know what was best for us, and that we needed this to progress. So we pushed ourselves out of our comfort and out into the world.
As we began our hike I was totally embarrassed by how out of breath I immediately was. We took a few short cuts that made the beginning of the climb even steeper than usual, and in those first few moments I thought to myself, “I hate this, why am I doing this. I want to go home. I want to go back to bed.” It reminded me of my instinctual reaction to when trials in my life first hit. “I hate this, why is this happening to me. I want this to be over. I want to be done right now.” In a talk I recently listened to, ‘The Fourth Watch,’ by S. Michael Wilcox, he relays a story from the Bible in Mark. Jesus’s disciples are in a ship at Sea while the Savior is on the land praying deep into the night. During this time a storm comes and the disciples are tossed around a bit. As Christ sat watching from the hill it says, “And He saw them toiling and rowing for the wind was contrary unto them.” (Mark 6:8) Something that he asks us to consider as we read this is that a Hebrew night is divided into four watches, or four different sections of time. The fourth watch, or final watch ends at about dawn. It says that the Savior didn’t come to them and tell them to be not afraid and calm the wind until the end of the fourth watch. I’d imagine all four watches for those disciples at sea would make up one very long, fearful, and tiring night. He allowed them to struggle through all of that time for a reason. As we came to our first rest place I turned to my friend Maura who is an experienced hiker and had been on this trail often and asked her, “About how far do you think we have come?” In my mind at that point we were surely at least a fourth of the way there or more. She laughed and responded with, “We have a long way to go.” Now I knew that we weren’t in the fourth watch of our hike yet, and I had a feeling the entire trek would be quite long, but still in that moment I thought to myself, “I’d really like to be done with this now.” As with all of my trials in life I find myself immediately wanting to be done with the difficult experience as soon as possible. But as we can see from the story in Mark, our God is a Fourth watch kind of God. This hike was a fourth watch kind of hike. Most of our trials are fourth watch kind of trials.
We get to keep walking.
As we continued along the hike I found myself getting frustrated as I watched everyone around me bound on ahead with ease. It was as though this giant mountain had no affect on their young and healthy bodies. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself. My health made even every day tasks difficult for me, let alone five hour hikes at ridiculous elevation. I am nineteen years old and I like adventures. I want to be able to run up mountains and live the life I had always imagined, but instead I was dragging behind everyone with tears in my eyes because of this trial that is so completely out of my control. Often times in life I think we can have a similar vantage point. It can feel as though as we go through life we are crawling and breathless, while others simply race on ahead. I am not so naïve to think that others do not have trials far worse than my own. In fact what is so concerning, is that from what I can see, these people that deal with things much worse than me, are still going full speed up the mountain of life. They don’t seem to be out of breath! They have a smile on their face! Why is this so hard for ME??? Well after the hike I was able to learn that while their stamina at this point could endure more than mine; bad knees, blisters, and other conflicts that couldn’t immediately be detected at first glance challenged their hike at times as well. We never know what someone is going through in life, or how hard it is for them personally. I am learning that it is never good to compare especially when it comes to life’s challenges. Whether we have hit rock bottom and others are sky high, or the other way around; our trials are our own. We are here to help each other not compete with each other.
We need to keep walking.
Finally morning light began to illuminate our hike. While the walking did not become any easier or more enjoyable, the little bit of direction made the walk seem more worth enduring. At about the half way mark we had come to the end of our second watch. I could see the value and strength I had already gained from how far we had come, but I couldn’t seem to shake the desire to want it over with. The difference with my thoughts this time though, was that I began to think of the view ahead. I began to consider the bigger picture for the first time that morning, and I started to want it. At about half way through this difficult year of mine I felt hopeless and frustrated about my situation, but I could already see the maturity I had gained through enduring even that much. While I didn’t want to have my trial, there was some morning light that allowed me to see a glimmer of the bigger picture. I started to want it.
We want the results of keeping walking.
When we reached the Saddle I knew that I had to be close to the Peak. Everyone had gone on ahead and left Ely and me behind. Neither of us knew the way, and without proper direction from the experienced hikers I was a little nervous about getting to the right place. Through out the hike thus far Ely and I both had been telling each other that we could make it. We would remind each other of just how beautiful the top would be. In this last General Conference in Elder Holland’s talk he said, “God will always send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen belief.” During my trials I am overwhelmed with love and support from friends and family here on this earth. They remind me every day that I can do this, and just how beautiful the view will be at the end of the hardship. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for them to My Heavenly Father. He truly sends help to all of us in our times of need.
We are not alone as we keep walking.
After scaling rocks and boulders and lots of laughing I reached my desired destination. We found our other friends and sat down to take in the view. I relaxed and let my breath out as I had finally made it to the end of my fourth watch. I can’t even begin to describe how proud I was of myself in that moment. Nine months ago I spent twenty hours out of my day asleep in my bed. Today I hiked Mount Olympus. I hope that the next time I take that trek it won’t be such a difficult ordeal and that I will be back to my healthy self, but for that day I had accomplished something serious for myself.
I made it because I kept walking.
Now right now I feel a little bit like I have passed the fourth watch and reached my seventh watch. I am fairly exhausted from toiling and rowing and I want so badly for my Savior to calm the storm. I want to reach my peak. My cousin Katie, one of the most amazing women I have ever met wrote me a letter that said, “You have ridden a challenge in life down its steep slope to your very core. God promised that we would never be given a challenge that we could not overcome, and so overcome you will through the simple laws of life.” This small reminder is something that can be helpful to all of us. If you ever feel you’re hardship is ongoing and will never end, remember that peace come’s to each of us eventually. We can withstand hard times. We can be better because of hard times.”
I am grateful for the opportunities God takes to teach me lessons I need to learn through out difficult times in my life.