This morning, I climbed a mountain. Well, it was a peak. Squaw Peak is the third highest mountain in Phoenix. At 2,608 feet high, it was the highest solid piece of land upon which I've ever stepped foot. It was a fairly spur of the moment decision, One I made only a couple of hours before it was time to wake up and head to the preserve to embark.
I haven't been on the mountain for awhile—a long while. I didn't know what to expect. I went with my conference roommate, Ben, my friends Ryan and Nicholas, and Kathy, and a couple of new friends. Being the smoker, I had my concerns, but I was with good company. We took a leisurely pace, stopping for water breaks and photo ops. We had holy conversations about our stories, our relationships, and our faith. We helped each other traverse difficult spots, taking hands and holding onto belongings. We encouraged each other.
It was a simple morning. The air was crisp and chilled, especially on the shaded side of the mountain. The path ranged between smooth and easy sloping and steep and jagged, but we did it. We made it to the top.
As we reached the final peak, the bright morning sun already high in the sky but offering little warmth, I found myself short on words. Kathy, the loving surrogate mother figure that she is, expressed her pride in me, the first time hiker. I stared out over the horizon and for the first time in a while, I found God. Not in any worship song. Not in any theology book. Not even in holy writ. I found God in the cold winter air on top of a small mountain. I hadn't seen her in a while, but she was there waiting.
We didn't talk much, not to each other. But in the conversations I had with my fellow travellers, she was present. I missed her. I came to Phoenix thinking I might run into her again, and I did. She didn't have much to say. "I love you. I'm here. Take your time." That was all I needed to hear. That was all God needed to say.
My relationship with God has not been easy to maintain lately. I've struggled with a slew of difficult questions about my future, my beliefs, and my faith, most of which have not come accompanied by answers. I've battled against anger and bitterness. I came to conference hoping to release some of these feelings, and nearly 3,000 feet off the ground this morning, I was able to release some.
But as with any trip up the mountain, you eventually have to come back down. Even when you do, the memory doesn't leave you. And no matter what else takes place this weekend, I found release in the company of friends. I found God in the silence. And God found me on top of the rocks under a clear sky. I might be back down on the ground now, but I'm not the same as I was when I departed this morning. Change doesn't happen in huge chunks, not sustainable change at least. It happens in steps. Sometimes those steps are easy. Sometimes they're steep. Regardless, change happens best in the company of others, not in a vacuum. Change happens when you take chances, when you try something you never thought you would. Change happens when you make yourself vulnerable and you trust others to walk with you, to share the load and the journey. Don't do it alone. Share the climb. Trust the ones walking before you, and keep watch over the ones following after.