In my previous post, I took the privilege of telling you about the wonderful opportunites I have to spend with some of the greatest friends in the world. There have been a couple of experiences here lately, though, that I felt especially worth sharing.
One came just over a month ago, from a friend who actually is not even a member of my church. But she's young and single, and she was an acquaintance of one of the more active members of my singles group, who invited her to hang out with us one Friday night this past summer. Now, although she doesn't worship with us on Sundays, she comes to hang out with us on Fridays...and she comes to our Wednesday night class...and she comes to our Girls' Prayer Group on Tuesdays. She's an incredible person with a sincere desire to serve the Lord, and that's always refreshing! Well...several weeks ago, she sent out a casual Facebook invite to several people, "Who's up for climbing Pinnacle this coming Sunday afternoon???"
Pinnacle Mountain is an over-1,000 ft. peak just west of Little Rock, that overlooks the Arkansas River Valley. It's not an incredibly difficult climb, but I'd never done it before, and honestly didn't know much about it. That was okay, though, because this friend tried to describe the hike to me and reassured me with, "Oh, you won't, like, fall of the mountain or anything, I don't think." That thought was extremely comforting.
Early in the afternoon before we went, I took a moment to look up Brother Keith's old article, that I remembered he had written about taking his children there. I was just trying to find out as much info as possible before the hike. Besides being entertaining and some of his best writing, Keith's article was very helpful, by informing that there was a water fountain at the base of the trail, that the trail was 1-1/2 miles, that it was divided by 10 distance markers, and that at about the number 8, there was some hand & foot climbing that would be necessary.
We planned to meet at the mountain at 2:00 p.m. that afternoon. When I arrived, there were about eight other people from my singles group. As we walked from the parking lot to the base of the mountain, I found out that there were 3 or 4 others from my singles group, including my singles minister, who were already there and had been hiking for awhile already. Some in my group split off and went with some of them, others stayed with us but hiked a little bit faster. I preferred to go at a more leisurely pace. A couple of girls went all the way up to about the Number 8 distance marker, where the boulders (and hand & foot climbing) begin, before turning around and leaving. And at that point, you're actually high enough that you can have a pretty decent view from there. So I can't say that I blame them.
However, I'd promised myself that I was gonna make it to the top. I may not be the most optimistic person in the world, but I was determined. I had my bottle of water with me, so I could have a drink whenever necessary. (It turned out to be about 10 degrees warmer that afternoon than it was the day before. That made a little bit of a difference in the climb.) I would stop and rest whenever necessary. One part of the hand & foot climbing did actually make me a little bit nervous, because there was a very flat, smooth, slick rock that I was on, with no foothold for me to climb further. I had to wait for some of the folks coming down to pass on by, so that I could slowly move sideways to another rock that I could climb on.
One friendly passerby offered a couple of helpful pieces of advice. He said, "Just remember the '3 points of contact' rule. Always keep three points of contact with the mountain--two feet and a hand, or a hand, a foot, and a butt--whatever you gotta use!" and, "Head towards the mountain...if you start to fall, it's easier to fall into the mountain than away from it!" He seemed to be a nice guy; if nothing else, he made me laugh, and that was good!
By the time I made it to the top, most of the rest of our group was already headed back down. It finally ended up being just me and this new friend (whose idea the hike was, in the first place!) that made it to the top together. We sat up there for about 45 minutes, and the view was incredible!
But besides the outstanding vista, I was able to make some other, even more breathtaking observations. The first of which is that I did not climb this mountain by myself. Most likely, I could not have climbed this mountain by myself. As badly as I wanted to make it to the top, I'm afraid I might have stopped, had it not been for my friend with her constant "You can do it!" and "We're almost there!" At one point she said, "We're almost there....I know I've been saying that for, like, the past 45 minutes!" I said, "I know...and you're a LIAR!" She laughed and said, "Yeah, but this time, we really ARE almost there!"
Secondly, I learned the importance of a foothold. As I was on the flat rock, with no good foothold, I was in a little bit scary position. I had absolutely no hope of making forward progress from that point. I had to find somewhere else to go in order to continue the climb. In Ephesians, the Bible speaks of letting the sun go down on your anger and giving the devil a foothold. It's a comforting thought, to know that by following Paul's instructions to the church in Ephesus, that I can put Satan in such a position where he will not have anywhere to go. He will have absolutely no hope of making forward progress in my life, at least at that point.
Finally, my absolute favorite book of the Bible is Hebrews. (There are many reasons why I love it...but that's another post entirely!) And my absolute favorite passasge is where the faith "hall of fame" comes to an end with, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." If nothing else, this climb up this mountain was, for me, an exercise in perseverance. It enabled me to learn a little bit more about going on when it's difficult and I don't really feel like going on anymore.
As we walked down the mountain together, it was starting to get a little bit late, and I realized that I would not be able to make it to church in time for my minister's 373rd sermon in his never-ending series on the book of Proverbs. But I told her, "That's okay. I'm growing a little weary of the Proverbs series. And I'm sure I've learned more about a couple of my favorite passages of scripture here, today, on this mountian, than I would have learned at church tonight."
I now agree with everyone else who's experienced the climb up Pinnacle. The view from the top really is incredible!