I have a cool story to share from last Wednesday, the day before I left California! I am home safe and sound, I flew back home Thursday and got back Friday morning. I was planning on including this in my Weekly Recap that I’m posting on Monday, but as I was writing it, I realized that this experience deserves its own post. Mostly because it would have made the recap twice as long as it usually is, but also because this blog is about my life… and the fact that I want to share as much of my life as I possibly can. So, bear with me a bit on what will quite possibly turn into a bit of a ramble!
Today, I went hiking on a trail that winds up a mountain side and overlooks Morro Bay, which is one of my favorite spots near where my aunt and uncle live. We hiked up, my aunt, youngest cousin, and I on foot, and Matthew on his mountain bike. The trail was dusty and slightly slippery because of that, so I was once again impressed with my cousin’s courage and bravery. Even though he’s ten years younger than me, he does things (like zipping down mountainsides on dirtbikes at break-neck speeds) that I would never be able to do. It was a scorching hot day and the trail had no tree cover at all, but the hike was still enjoyable. The views got more and more gorgeous the more we hiked, and I got to very near the top of one of the hills. There was a large rock that I could sit on, so I climbed up, took a few pictures, and then took a seat to survey the view, looking over the bay and the freshwater reserve that is a bird sanctuary.
My aunt told me something really interesting as we were hiking. That spot is actually really unique because the fresh water from the wetlands and the saltwater of the sea mix together. I did some research later on Morro Bay, and I discovered that this is called an Estuary. This occurrence is actually really rare, and I got to overlook it while sitting on top of a rock. The beauty of God’s creation was so incredibly overwhelming in that moment, and it made me think about that sermon from last Sunday, about Psalm 8. That Psalm is quickly becoming one of my favorites, and it is so fitting for that special moment that I spent overlooking Morro Bay’s Estuary.
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers-
the moon and the stars you set in place-
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them everything you made,
putting all things under their authority
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky; the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.
O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! (Ps. 8:3-9)
Majesty really is the right word to use. Any amount of pictures that I could post couldn’t do this place justice. Not the marsh, the bay, the ocean in the horizon, or even the birds circling the hillside. Just the same, my words can’t do justice to the strong surge of faith that I felt in that moment as well. I felt, and still feel, so thankful to be there. That I got to sit on top of a rock and overlook a beautiful sliver of majesty, worked by the hands of God himself.
After a while, I could hear the voices of my aunt and cousins, were waiting for me at the bottom of the hill. So, I hopped off my rock and headed down to meet them. The boys were starting to get a little squirrelly because they were dying to go meet my uncle. Turns out, he had come to the trail after his work shift ended. He was going to take us rock climbing, much to my surprise! I was not expecting to go climbing… let alone actually do it myself! I originally thought that I would just watch my cousins and my aunt, but my uncle brought an extra pair of shoes, and my aunt lent me her harness. I looked over the rock walls, and decided that if I didn’t try it now, I might not ever do it again. I would have regretted it if I hadn’t at least given rock climbing a try. So, I put on a pair of borrowed rock climbing shoes, and (with some help) strapped on the harness. I watched my little cousin Matthew climb all the way up to the top of the rock wall, and hop back down again. As I watched, I surprised myself with the fact that I was getting excited to give it a try! Once it was my turn to climb, my uncle helped rope me in and “belayed” the rope for me. I learned that is when a person stays on the ground and holds the rope for you. They make sure you feel secure, and they make sure you have enough rope. One side of the rope is tied to the climber’s harness, and the other is fed through the belayer’s harness. The climber puts full trust in the person that is belaying them. They have to trust that if they fall, the person on the ground will hold the rope and keep them safe. And let me tell you, at that high up, that trust is hard to give.
I climbed twice. The first climb was on a wall with plenty of footholds and places to put my hands. The second, however, was more challenging. It was steeper, with not as many prominent footholds. My uncle coached me through each step, telling me that if I find even a place to put my toe, the shoes will hold. What I found the most challenging was the fact that there weren’t as many places to put my hands. I had to use strength almost entirely without a good hand-hold, and one time it made me stumble. I lost my footing, and my feet slid out from under me. I clung to the rope as I twisted around, trying to regain a good position on the rock. All the while, my uncle held the rope. When I fell the rope didn’t even budge. I was safe, even if I was panicking on the inside. After twisting around a little, I calmed myself down and soon found another good foothold and was able to steady myself again.
After I finished that climb, I thought about how that experience is a pretty good metaphor for faith and fear (I know, I know, English major alert). Even though life is difficult and sometimes we’ll have trouble finding a foothold, God’s got the rope. Even if we fall, God’s got the rope. It may sound a little cliche, but I still find the thought extremely comforting.
After sitting on these experiences and letting them percolate in my heart, I’ve realized the lessons that I learned from them. Here’s what I’ve got so far. First, I’ve learned how important it is to stop and take a breath. Stop, sit on top of a rock, and look at the majesty around you. Even if you’re not religious, and many of the people who I love and respect and may be reading this now aren’t, I still think that this is so important. Life is one big chaotic storm of crazy curveballs that are thrown at us one-by-one. It’s so easy to forget that sometimes all we need is just to take a step back and breathe and acknowledge the limitless and humbling majesty of the world in which we live.
Second, a lesson in faith. Faith in the fact that God’s got my rope. Faith in my own strength. Faith in the fact that even if I don’t deserve it, God still “crowned” me with “glory and honor,” and this love and grace will never fade. And in my mind and heart, this limitless love is just as huge, majestic, and humbling, as this view.