by Charlotte Brown Garricke
This is a motorized age, isn’t it? Some sthings are as they were: ask our friends, the Amish. They prove that we can still function without modern machines. But listen to this! Recently I accompanied my husband to Tucson, Arizona, for the North American Division Ministerial meetings. While we were waiting in our car for our room to be made ready, an amusing thing happened. A gentleman came riding by our car on a motorized scooter and rode right into the lobby of the hotel. It was amazing! When we were children, a scooter was a scooter. My brothers had scooters. The principle of motion was that the left foot did the work of keeping the scooter going.
These days in my part of the world, we don’t see very many people walking as we used to 50 years ago. Occasionally, we might see a traveler along the highway, but rarely. Many of my friends do a lot of hiking, and there are many benefits to walking. The muscles get a workout, and the lungs expand with fresh air, especially out of the cities. Walking offers new vistas. It gets us out of the house and into the sunshine and helps to prevent the depression that can descend on us if we stay indoors too long.
In the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern part of the United States, there is a mountain called Mt. Pisgah. Mt. Pisgah Academy is named after this mountain. My husband, who is currently a pastor in Arizona, is a graduate of Mt. Pisgah Academy. He said that while he was a student there, many times they walked up to the top of Mt. Pisgah. He said the first two-thirds of the climb was fairly easy and gradual. The last third changed drastically. The going got tougher with each step. Breathing became difficult. The leg muscles began to tighten up. Then the lead climber would look back and say encouraging words to a first-time climber: “Hang in there! Soon you’ll be at the summit. Just keep on walking and you’ll make it.”
He said that near the top of the mountain, the sky would begin to open up, and at that point the hikers would get their second wind. The thought of “We’re almost there” would come to mind, and on they went, and suddenly they were there. The view from the top made the trip worthwhile. “Just keep on walking,” and the rewards are great!
So it is with us and the Lord. We start our walk with Him on this Christian journey. He looks back and sees us stumble. He looks back and sees our pale faces as we struggle sometimes to catch our spiritual breaths. He is constantly hovering over us. And He is even carrying us spiritually at times. I have a framed poem entitled “Footprints.” Many of you may have this very poem, or you may have seen it on cards:
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life, there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed you most, you would leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious child. I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you” (Author Unknown).
There is a beautiful verse in Isaiah 40 that does indeed promise that He will carry us: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (verse 11). Don’t you love that verse? I do!
But all of us occasionally go through an especially low point in our lives. We lose a loved one, or a friend moves away. Sometimes in our position as helper to our husbands, we feel overburdened with too much to do: children to care for, mail to send, problems within the congregation. Is Jesus there with us? Yes, He is. This reminds me of the lowest point in the United States called “Death Valley.” As one descends into this place, there is a sign on the side of the mountain that says: “Sea Level.” But you aren’t all the way down. You can walk out a short distance to the lowest spot which is below sea level. Many of you have been there, I’m sure. Have you ever felt lower than “sea level”? I imagine every person has at some time in their lives.
The good news is that a better day comes when we decide to leave that low place and head for the next high place. Life is full of hills and valleys, isn’t it? One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Psalm 23:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
A few years ago, my husband, George, and I went to Death Valley, and then we went as far as we could drive to the portals of Mt. Whitney in the same day. What a contrast! Mt. Whitney is the highest mountain in the lower United States. When we arrived at the welcome center several climbers were milling around, getting ready to hike to the summit of Mt. Whitney. The only way to get to the top is to “just keep walking.” A doctor friend of ours who walked up the mountain said that when you get almost to the top, there is a very narrow land bridge connecting two ridges that a climber must pass over to reach the final point not far away. He told us that it was so scary that he lay down and crawled across the connecting rock to the other side, and then he was able to walk the rest of the way to the summit.
Now I know that you are already applying this idea to spiritual things. As we near the end of our journey, Jesus is willing to be that bridge for us to symbolically crawl across to the other side. He has promised to be all that we need, hasn’t He? When we reach heaven, we will say that “the toils of the journey were worth it all.” So we are to “keep on walking.” We are to keep trusting Jesus to be our traveling Companion. I surely want Him on my journey with me. Do you want Him on your journey? The signs that are mentioned in Matthew 24 by Jesus Himself point to His soon return. There are wars and rumors of wars; there is civil unrest; there are diseases; there are earthquakes, storms, and calamities all around; there is political unrest. But Jesus said, “He who endures to the end shall be saved.” In other words, “Don’t turn back. Don’t give up! The lights of the city are in sight. Keep on walking.” Wherever you are in this world just now, Jesus is cheering you on. He wants you to make it. He’s given His Word for your road map. He is your strength for the journey. Ask for it. Expect it.
Our starting point on this journey began when we accepted Jesus as our personal Savior. This reminds me of the Appalachian Trail in the eastern part of the United States. This famous trail begins in northern Georgia and ends in Maine. Many start this trail in Georgia. Some make it to the end. Most give up along the way. Some of our friends started this trail in Georgia and came home from off the trail at some point in Virginia. They were probably halfway there. They became weary of the monotony of the forests. The way was lonely at times; the way was rocky; there were snakes and poison ivy to contend with; they got dirty; they got sweaty; they got stinky; they got cold and damp when it rained, and it rained a lot. They eventually gave up. They never knew the exhilaration of reaching the final destination.
Dear workers for Christ, please keep walking. Keep your eyes on the prize. Keep your focus on Jesus. Study His Word. Keep in touch with Jesus and other believers. Encourage each other—fellow travelers on this spiritual journey.
Won’t it be wonderful to reach the end of the journey and feel two hands reaching out to gently pull you up through the final ascent to the summit! The view from the top will be glorious. Just keep walking until that day when you can walk into your heavenly home.