My An Arkie's Faith column from the November 11, 2020, issue of The Polk County Pulse.
I have just set out on the hike with my wife, sister, and brother-in-law, when I hear my wife exclaim, “Oh no!” She is pointing to the Rockport hiking boot on her right foot. The sole has come loose over half the way back and is flopping with every step. After taking a few exaggerated steps, she says, “I’m not going to be able to go on with this boot.” As we wonder what we should do, she asks me to look in her backpack. “I think there is a pink sweatband in the bottom,” she says. I find the sweatband, and we wrap it twice around the toe of her boot, securing the floppy sole enough to let her continue the hike.
The hike to the falls is about one mile. When the trail nears the waterfall, it follows Dismal Creek. The path here is rough and rocky, and there are many tree roots. As we make our way down to the falls, the loose sole on my wife’s boot contributed to her falling on the trail. I reached for her, but before I could grab her, she rolled down a small embankment and came to a stop with a rock in the middle of her back. A couple who were hiking near us saw her fall and rushed over to help.
We had difficulty getting her up, and the rock under her back made it painful for her to move. Once she was up, she tried taking a few steps and realized that she had sprained her ankle. After resting awhile, she gingerly made her way to the top of the falls, watching the creek rush over the smooth sloping rock and disappear into a 4-foot-wide hole. The trail to get down below the falls included crossing a small stream and climbing over boulders. I urged my wife to rest at the top while the rest of our group climbed down below. Just as I glimpsed the waterfall gushing through the rock, I turned and saw her slowly making her way down to the bottom of the falls. “I’m not going to miss seeing this, no matter how much it hurts,” she said.
Shortly after we started climbing back up the trail, the sole came loose on her left boot. By this time, I have a very negative opinion of Rockport boots. My wife took the ponytail holder out of her hair, and after I sawed through it on a sharp rock, we were able to tie it around her boot. We slowly made the one-mile hike back to the road, often stopping to adjust the makeshift repairs on both boots. When we arrived at our cabin, my wife was ready to take off the offending Rockport hiking boots. As soon as she removed them, we could see her badly swollen ankle.
My wife didn’t sleep much that night. She was sore all over, and her ankle was painful. But she knew that she had done her best and had completed the hike even though she had significant adversities. She knew that she had persevered. She had endured to the end. I admired how she had taken all of the difficulties of the hike in stride. I remembered something that I had read once on a hiking blog. The trail doesn’t care about the terrain; you have to deal with it. The trail is the trail. So whatever comes, you have to keep going. When you get knocked down, you have to get up because there’s no other way.
In 2 Corinthians 4:8,9 (CEV), Paul wrote, “We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again.” While Paul realizes that trials and difficulties will cause Christians to suffer, he teaches that we should not focus on our problems. He tells us that no matter what trouble we are going through, God is with us. He even goes so far as to say, “But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us hope.” Romans 5:3,4 (CEV)
Gentle Reader, endurance means putting one foot in front of the other no matter how things are going. If your Rockport boots come apart, you keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you sprain your ankle, you keep putting one foot in front of the other. When you have confidence that God knows, plans, and directs your life for the good, it gives you the ability to endure. “We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father.” Colossians 1:11,12 (NLT)