Mountain climbing with Spirit

Concerned that she might no longer have the strength to complete a Smoky Mountains hike with her daughter, a woman turned to God for help. Step by step, the inspiration that God created us with dominion over fatigue and discouragement made all the difference.

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Sometimes life looks like an insurmountable mountain. But when the going gets rough, and fear haunts our path, I’ve found it helps to remember Christ Jesus’ statement, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20, New King James Version).

I took this promise to heart recently when my daughter and I hiked up Mount LeConte in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

I had climbed the mountain a number of times over many decades. As kids we scampered up and down the trail with no fancy gear and no struggle at all. But this time I was afraid that at my age, weight, and fitness level, the hike would be a formidable challenge. And there are no roads on this mountain; supplies reach the top by llama, or once a year by helicopter. Nobody was going to carry me down if I got tired.

I had learned from my study of Christian Science that God, infinite Spirit, is the only creator of the universe, including man. Therefore, even though it may look as though a material body subject to frailties is our actual identity, the true identity of each of us is spiritual and as indestructible as our divine Maker.

In her foundational work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, defines God as “the great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence” (p. 587). The spiritual qualities of God are the very substance of our identity, too, as God’s children. Science and Health defines man as “the compound idea of infinite Spirit; the spiritual image and likeness of God; the full representation of Mind” (p. 591).

I reasoned that since God has all power, I could not run out of steam on the trail. I could expect to have whatever strength I needed. Bolstered by this, I began the hike.

The ascent was steep and long, in weather that was hot and humid. I relied on strength from God all the way up, and it was a successful hike.

But then came the climb down two days later. Hiking downhill actually requires greater strength than an ascent. All went well for the first mile, but after that my strength seemed to disappear.

I thought of a beloved gospel song, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” The opening lyrics are, “I am weak, but Thou art strong.” The song played in my mind as I walked, but I changed the opening words to “I am strong because Thou art strong.”

During the final mile, I needed to drop many negative concepts that were coming to thought, just as I would cast off an unnecessary load weighing me down. Am I too fat? Too old? A weak mortal? No. I refused to hang on to any negativity, and instead accepted that I was forever strong, beautiful, immortal, and free. I woke up to my true identity as the spiritual image of God, endowed with dominion over fatigue and discouragement.

This verse I recalled from the Bible was also a big help: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; … they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, King James Version).

These ideas inspired us and helped make our way perfect, especially during the difficult last mile. As my thought shifted, my steps picked up their pace, and I finished the hike much stronger than I had imagined possible. Then, just as my daughter and I got into our car to head home, the sky opened up with a blinding torrent of rain. But our trail time had been perfect!

If we see ourselves as material beings in a material world, there are endless problems to weigh us down and impede harmonious progress. But as we claim our true identity as God’s spiritual image, we realize we can never be separated from God, from good. And we find more and more that we have all the strength and ability we need, and there is nothing to fear.

Adapted from an article published in the Aug. 26, 2019, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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