When you come across a sign on a mountain trailhead that says DANGEROUSLY STEEP,
it’s best to do an about-face, especially if you are me: a 53-year-old woman who fondly remembers that one year when she was physically fit.
By the way, that’s actually me in the photo, hiking in Colorado. My husband likes to take numerous photos of me struggling up rocky inclines. It’s his hobby. But the photo represents a different ordeal, um, hike.
Unfortunately, on the day of the DANGEROUSLY STEEP hike, my husband and I simply ignored the sign and followed a large, chatty group and their dogs past the sign and down the trail. When the man leading the group asked us if we were okay with steep trails, Jeff and I communicated with a glance: If they can handle it, so can we.
Unfortunately, we ignored two facts:
- In Colorado, steep means something completely different than in Wisconsin, our former place of residence.
- The word dangerous means “involving possible injury, harm or death.”
Fast forward 20 minutes: the group ahead of us has disappeared and so has the trail. We can’t find any trail markers on the trees. Still, we forged ahead, even if the ahead had vanished.
Our search for a path through the trees following the stream down the mountain led us to another sign.
This time it said: Slippery When Wet.
I didn’t let that sign stop me, either. In an effort to find the trail, I ended up sliding down a wet, moss-covered slab of rock that perched dangerously over a stream.
Did I mention that the stream was mostly vertical? Please note the words dangerously and vertical. After sitting there in a daze for a while, listening to the water rush over all manner of jagged rock below me, I realized that I needed to climb back up that slippery slab. It was the only way out of my predicament.
I grabbed a tree root growing from the side of the hill but failed to get a grip on the rock with my wet, mucky tennis shoes. That’s when I started to worry. My husband stretched out his hand from above, but there was no way I was going to grab it. If I did, my legs would dangle and I’d probably pull him off the edge with me.
I had absolutely no idea of what to do. And so I prayed.
Then it came to me. I took off my shoes, tied the laces together and draped them around my neck. Unlike the mud-covered soles of my Columbia Omni-Grips, my bare feet clung to the rock beneath the slime. I made it easily to the top, and we found the trail.
Most of us don’t come up against slippery slabs of rock every day, but we face so many other trials in life — times when we can’t find the trail markers, when we wander the wrong way, ignore all the signs of danger or simply don’t know what to do.
As I was praying lately about a few slippery areas in my own life, that rock I climbed came to mind, as did Psalm 18. Not recalling the content of that particular Psalm, I opened my Bible and read:
The Lord is my rock … and my deliverer … he made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights … You gave me a wide place for my steps and my feet did not slip.
The Lord was reminding me that underneath the moss and slime of life, the Rock is still there. I simply need to cling to Him, like my feet clung to the rock near the stream. And He will even equip me with the strength to do so (Psalm 18:32).
Are you clinging to the Rock today?