I leaned the full weight of my body on a huge rock. My heart pounded furiously. I needed a few minutes to catch my breath before continuing on toward my goal, the peak of Guagua Pichincha, 15, 729 feet above sea level in Ecuador, South America.
As I rested I looked around me. To my left the steep walls of a volcanic crater fell sharply. There, swirling mists hid bubbling springs of hot water rising from a seething active volcano deep in the earth. The rotten egg smell of sulphur wafted upwards. It would be much easier to walk down into the crater as many people did, than to continue the upwards climb to the mountain peak. There was a well-marked route. But the return climb is a killer. That wasn't for me.
To my right was an awesome sight - green pastures, a peaceful village, more mountains, and the enormous city of Quito. This view was much more tempting. Down in the city, in the villages, people lived in beautiful houses with fragrant gardens. And I wondered what I was doing gasping for breath in the thin air.
I began thinking about my life in Christ. Thanks to God's grace the descent into an evil lifestyle has not appealed to me, but worldly beauty and comfort certainly do. Even good things, gifts of God, can pull me away from the pursuit of God himself.
My heart had slowed somewhat and I started my climb again. This narrow path I was on was the only way to get to the top. If I went into the crater, or down into the green valley, I wouldn't make my goal. I needed to remain focused. But I needed something more than determination. I needed a guide. Our son Travis had been this way before - he was ahead of me, showing me the route. I also needed encouragement. My husband Tim was climbing this mountain for the first time, too. He was behind me, encouraging me, helping me place my hands and feet in the best positions.
In life too I need a guide - Jesus. He's been this way before and He knows the way to the top. And with me are many others; we encourage each other other, cheering each other on, helping each other to place our steps.
Finally, huffing and puffing, we stood in full sunshine on the mountain peak. Waves of mountains undulated in the distance. Rivers trailed their way through valleys and over plains. We turned slowly, enjoying the 360 degree view. Was the climb worth it? Yes, without any doubt!