Let’s just talk about my trip up the Manitou Incline the other day.
You know, I consider myself relatively athletic and able-bodied. On Friday, that all changed. My friend and I drove to Manitou, all excited about the incline. Yeah, it was my first time, despite living in Colorado for most of my life. Anyway, I was pumped and ready to go. A hike, early morning, new hiking pack, sunscreen, a friend, and Colorado – what could be better, right?!
Well, at the bottom of the incline, I looked up to the top. I could barely see the end. Okay, so a little daunting. And VERY steep at some points. Whatever. I’m here to do the incline, this is going to be awesome, I can do this! A little ways up, My breathing was already labored (no thanks to the uphill trek we had to make to even get to the bottom of the incline). But hey, I am relatively fit, I had plenty of water, I was going to be fine. Not really. A little farther up, I paused, breathing heavily. I looked up again at the never-ending hill. This was going to be way harder than I thought. People started passing me on my left. I didn’t even care. I told Melissa in between breaths, as I paused again and sat down on the makeshift step, “Oh boy, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it to the top.”
This pattern continued for awhile. Then at one point, I paused and sat down again, breathing heavily, as I pushed down some nausea. I should’ve had more to eat for breakfast…or was it the altitude all of a sudden? I just kept sitting down occasionally, catching my breath, pushing down nausea, as I tried to make my way up the steps. People would pass me, I’d pass them, and they’d pass me again. Melissa forged ahead, waiting on me to catch up. I kind of felt bad, making her wait for me. I feel like I’d walk 10 steps and sit down again. I felt that I was getting so weak so quickly.
My foot poised on the step above me, I bent at the waist and leaned on my knee, breathing like I’d been a smoker for 10 years, sweat dripping down my face. I reached up to wipe a sweat drop away from my cheek. A young man who was also resting at that point looked at me and jokingly said, “I thought I was the only one crying!” I smiled and gave him a breathless laugh; I pushed on.
At the 2/3 point up the incline, they have a place where you can “bail out”. I seriously considered it. Still with labored breathing, I felt like each step took a monumental effort. The tops of my thighs were red from my hands pushing on them each time I stepped up. Melissa told me, “You’ll regret it if you don’t go all the way to the top.” I knew she was right. After all, I’m no quitter. So, we pressed on. At this point the incline is literally straight up. A few people passed me crawling on all fours to gain some distance. The first part of the incline is hard aerobically (it all is, but the first part is where it really hurts) and the second part has a lot to do with endurance. The steps aren’t so far apart, but they really climb in elevation. When I finally reached the top, my legs were aching, my hair was damp with sweat, and I was amazed that I reached the top. It had seemed so impossible before.
Even with how difficult the Incline is, it’s really a cool experience. You make friends along the way. People come to the incline from all-over. There are people constantly encouraging each other and smiles are passed around for everyone to benefit from. Those who are experienced Incline climbers give you pointers. And then you see the crazy people who like to run the Incline, usually running down the steps as you’re trying to go up. And you look on with amazement that they’re still alive. And not to mention the incredible views you see when you stand up straight and look behind you.
To draw a comparison, isn’t that how your faith walk should be? Mentally and physically, I had so many barriers that I had to fight through in order to climb the Incline. I have MS, I get tired faster, and I just went through a relapse last week. I stopped at one point to check my blood sugar just because I wasn’t feeling so great. Looking up the Incline when I wasn’t even halfway, I thought, “oh, there’s no way!” In your faith walk, as you grow and mature in Christ, as you go up the “incline”, the first part you’re just trying to catch your breath with all the new, exciting things going on, and you may even be daunted at the task of growing in your faith for the rest of your life. You have a lot of setbacks in the beginning, as you try to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Then, it’s a test of endurance. It’s a test of staying faithful to reaching your end destination despite the exhaustion and pain you’ve felt along the way. Even if there is a way out along the way (and there’s always a choice because God gives us free will), you can choose whether or not to take it. But the people along the way are there to enrich you, to encourage you, and to even give advice to you when they’re more experienced. It’s a beautiful prospect. It’s how faith should be. And when we finally get to the top, it’s going to be a beautiful experience.
“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,
‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’ And ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”