“Let’s go on a hike,” my husband said. “It’ll be fun,” he said. I was all-in, but I had no idea what I was really in for. My family was on our summer road trip, and our first stop was Zion National Park, a breathtaking valley shadowed by awe inspiring mountains that look like towers jutting from the valley below. It’s one of those things that can’t be described, it needs to be seen. There are many trails to explore in Zion, we decided to start with Angel’s Landing. The park map said it was about a five mile strenuous hike that took four hours. Families with small children, people with heart conditions or fear of heights were strongly cautioned. Since our kids are 13 and 14 years old, had no physical ailments and were pretty active as a whole family, we figured we could handle it.
It started off nice and easy, but then…we faced drastically steep inclined switchback trails that were sprawled across the side of the mountain.
My oldest daughter has struggled with asthma and began to have a hard time catching her breath. My husband, having suffered from asthma himself, was able to help her calm down and get her breathing back to normal. She wanted to quit. We assured her that we could see the top from where we were standing and encouraged her that we would make it! After a short rest, we continued on the trail. Little did we know we were really only about 1/4 of the way through our hike, and things were about to get real sketchy.
We entered a slot canyon area that was lovely and shaded, and where you could hear your voice echo when you spoke (or sang, as I did of course). We figured the worst was over and our destination was just around the corner. But, no. There were more switchback trails that were shorter but much steeper. Once we got through those, we came upon a section of the trail that made me internally say, “OK, NOPE, that’s it! We have come this far, and we can go ahead and turn back now. There is NO WAY I am taking my children up there!”
Ahead of us was a mountain that I can only describe as looking a lot like a giant rock potato chip. I mean, who would want to climb a giant rock potato chip? It was towering and thin, with a sheer drop that I later found out was about 1500 feet above the ground below. Along the trail were thick metal chains anchored into the rock to help you climb without falling to your death. Some of the trail in this area was only two feet wide with drop-offs on either side. Hikers at the summit looked like little ants because they were so far away. This is something I would love to do with just my husband, but having our kids with me changed things. I could feel my heart pounding even thinking about traversing this final mile to the summit.
“C’mon,” my husband assured me, “It’s right up there; it’ll be fine.” My kids were keen on the idea too, and I wasn’t about to be a party pooper. I took a deep breath and started on the road of submission, craning my neck back to make sure I still had two daughters. “Be careful girls. Don’t step there. Hold on to the chain. Slow and steady. Oh my gosh, be careful. No, hold on to the chain!” I’m sure I was making my family insane, but I just couldn’t hold back my fear that one of them would lose their footing. Then the rain started, just a drizzle. Sure, it was refreshing, but it also made our hands slippery on the metal chain. You know, the metal chain that was supposed to save our lives. We were just getting to the most treacherous portion of the trail, almost to the summit when it began to really rain on us. OK, I was done. I couldn’t handle anymore.
My panic was becoming overwhelming, so I had a decision to make. I could let myself be terrified and make my family miserable by nagging them, or I could give my fear to God.
I chose the latter. I prayed out loud, “OK, Lord, you love my kids more than I do, I need you to look after them and bring peace to my heart. Please take my fear and just keep my kids safe. And it would be really cool if this rain would pass.” About five minutes after I prayed this prayer, the rain stopped, and we came to the end of the metal chain to see the summit! We had done it, and the view was worth it! We spent some time up there, ate some snacks, drank some water and prayed as a family. I reminded our girls that when we admire creation and acknowledge that God is a perfect designer, we are worshipping Him! We were wowed by the vast valley, and the deep, rich, red of the mountains against the big, blue sky. It was a memory that none of us will soon forget.
On our way back down, we passed through the sketchy chain section, then came to the downhill switchbacks. We encouraged those weary hikers still heading up the trail by saying, “You’re almost there. You can make it. It’s worth it!” I told my oldest daughter how proud I was of her pushing through and finishing the hike, and I could tell she was pretty proud of herself too. I realized that our hike resembled our lives. We go through difficult climbs where we want to throw up our hands and say “NOPE! Not today!” But, when we stop and intentionally trust Jesus to protect us and guide us, He takes us higher than we ever thought we could go. And once we finish our journey, we get to encourage others because we’ve been there, and we’ve seen the view. We know that the climb is worth it, even if it’s a giant rock potato chip!
“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).