I have some friends who have been hiking the Appalachian Trail together. It’s a pretty phenomenal goal – even to do it in 250 mile segments. The Trail runs from Maine down to Georgia covering some 2,200 miles. My friends started hiking it 4 years ago, each year picking up where they left off the year before. These two women carry all their gear in backpacks and sleep on the trail in all kinds of weather. It’s great to just sit and listen to the adventures they’ve already had.
One of my questions was about preparation. Neither of these women had ever hiked before or even camped. The camping part of preparation was actually easier than the hiking. You can throw up a tent in your backyard or string a hammock and get a good idea of what camping might be like.
But how do you prepare to hike for 12 hours a day? The answer is you don’t. You do the best you can by squeezing in hikes in the midst of busy days and then you count on getting into real hiking shape on the trail.
And this is the statement that got my attention. My friend said with a smile, “You know, you push up one mountain and the next mountain gets easier instead of harder.” That’s what it feels like to get into hiking shape.
I think following Jesus is supposed to be like that. When the disciples first met Jesus they weren’t at all in hiking shape. As you read the gospels you can kind of tell. Every time Jesus asks them to obey him it looks like a mountain they can’t possibly climb. But after following him for 3 years, every mountain had become easier instead of harder.
I think part of the problem for most of us is that we quit climbing up the mountains. Obedience becomes hard so we sit right where we are, or worse we head back to where the trail is flat and easy. Then the mountain seems to grow bigger instead of smaller.
Jesus is calling some of you to climb what seems to be a mountain. You don’t feel like you’re in hiking shape – and you are right. But the way to get in hiking shape with Jesus is to follow him up the first mountain. Every mountain after that will seem easier instead of harder.