You know those directions for high altitude cooking on your box of brownie mix? Well those are there for folks like me who live above 4,500 feet altitude. We're at somewhere around 4,600 feet. Many people find that hard to believe, considering we live in the desert of Arizona. But sure enough, we live in the high desert - as opposed to the valley, where you'll find Phoenix, for instance. That means we have to drink extra water and wear sunscreen even more religiously - not for the same reasons, of course.
So while I'm used to living at high altitude, every now and again I like to go even higher. This Saturday, James and I went for a hike in our nearby mountains up Miller Canyon. That trail, by the way, goes up, up, and more up. We didn't have time to do the whole thing, but we hiked in about an hour and a half and back out in about an hour or less. So in that first hour and a half we went from about 4,600 feet to almost 8,000 feet. No small feat! (I crack myself up!)
I've included this photo of the map not because you can make heads or tails from it, but so you'll know that I know what I'm talking about. We started out in the white area and hiked into the dark green area, one shade away from the very darkest green!
At any rate, here's what I want you to know about going high: It's hard for me to breathe up there!
When I first start out hiking at a higher altitude than I'm used to (we drove up some before we started hiking) I have such a hard time breathing. The air is just so thin and diluted of oxygen. Of course I was exerting no small amount of energy too, hiking upwards and all. But even walking slowly I get winded very easily. It's a little discouraging. You set out with excitement and a feeling of adventure, ready to scale new heights and see new vistas...and the air gets sucked out of you. Bummer.
(This is early on in the hike when I told James I wanted to sit down so he could take my picture by the babbling creek, but really I just wanted to sit down and rest!)
But then I reminded myself to breathe a little deeper and drink plenty of water. As I became acclimated to the thinner air and the challenge of the climb, I began to feel a little more on top of things and I could breathe again. I began to enjoy the hike and relax into the adventure of it all, taking in the crisp, spring air and the beautiful surroundings. The hike was still work, but it was also fun.
I share this with you today because as I walked up, up, up Saturday I thought of how spiritual challenges can leave us a little breathless too. Every now and then God takes us on an uphill climb that requires we adjust to higher altitudes spiritually. You think to yourself, "Hey, what's the problem here? I'm just walking, taking one step at a time, but I'm winded. Since when did walking get so hard?"
I'll tell you when putting one foot in front of the other gets so hard:
Taking things to the next height often means it gets a little harder to breathe. You don't feel so comfortable, so on top of your game, so carefree and easy-breezy. And, if you're not prepared because you didn't really count the cost of going so much further up, that thin air can take you by surprise and cause you to stop and turn back down the mountain.
- when you try to push your kids to the next level of maturity by requiring a few new things of them.
- when you determine to tighten your belt, pay off your debt, and live within your means.
- when you attempt to make God a bigger priority by signing up for a Bible study, actually having your daily quiet time daily, or memorizing scripture.
- when you take on a new responsibility that God has called you to - like leading a small group, teaching a children's Sunday school class, leading vacation Bible school, or starting a MOPs group.
- when you decide to work on your marriage instead of throwing in the towel.
- when you decide to be bolder about sharing your faith and you sign up for your church's outreach ministry.
- when you decide to root out a certain form of rebellion in your child and you have to do the hard work of disciplining that kid.
- when you ..... you fill in the blank. You've scaled your own mountains I'm sure.
If you find yourself a little winded from a new challenge today, whatever it may be, don't stop and turn around. Instead do the same thing I did on Miller's Canyon Trail Saturday. Drink a lot and breath deep. Not water and air, necessarily, though those are good things too. But drink in the living water Jesus offers in abundance. Ask Him to pour His Spirit in you until you're overflowing with energy, resolve, and whatever else it takes to live abundantly in the higher plain He's called you to.
Then breathe in the Word of God like it's the very air you need to survive. I found Saturday that I was breathing too shallow. When I started breathing in deeply through my nose and out slowly through my mouth, I could literally feel the air getting deeper into my hungry lungs. Likewise, when I take scripture into the deepest recesses of my soul by not just reading it, but meditating on it and memorizing it, I find the motivation and instruction I need to keep moving forward.
So drink up and breathe deep, dear friend. We have new heights to scale!
What's challenging you today? How do you handle the thin air of new heights?
Please come back tomorrow! I have big things to share!