BY REV. PERRY AALGAARD - FIRST LUTHERAN CHURCH — WEST OKOBOJI
Hebrews 11:1 — Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is the bridge spanning the void from what we know as reality to what we want but we cannot see. There are times in our lives when we focus more on the unknown and the unseen rather than on what we have come to trust. Faith is trusting in what we know so we can move to places yet unseen.
In August 2015 my cousin, Tom, and I planned to hike to the top of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States, at an altitude 14,505 feet. I had done another hike with Tom a few years back, for which I was unprepared physically. I did complete the hike, but it was not pretty. The Whitney hike would be more challenging, with twice the distance and twice the altitude rise. I knew I needed to train to meet this challenging hike.
In Iowa, we do not have mountains to climb for training, so I was not sure how to get myself in shape for this challenging hike. I visited with a trusted physical therapist, who suggested I go the YMCA and walk on the treadmill, setting it to a 15 percent incline and walk. I followed his advice and started training in February. By August I was confident I was physically prepared. The unknown factor was whether or not my body could handle the altitude. There was really no way to train in Iowa for the altitude.
On the day of the hike, we had about a mile to go to reach the top and both Tom and I began to slow way down. The altitude impacted us and we needed to rest every couple hundred feet. We were running out of strength. It was then we ate some of our food, even though we were not really hungry and we forced ourselves to drink more water, even though we did not feel thirsty. After the food and water break, we gained the strength needed to push on to the top. We had reached our goal.
The next day while exploring the local town of Lone Pine, I found a book about hiking Whitney in one of the tourist shops. In this book it talked about some of the basics of hiking the mountain, and one of the keys to making it to the top is to stay hydrated. Our break near the top of the mountain to eat and drink was what allowed us to make it the final mile. I was confident my body could do the walk, but I was fearful about how I would react to the altitude. Doing the basic thing of drinking water helped us to reach our goal.
In our lives we often focus on the overwhelming concerns of the unknown. We focus on what we do not know and often let those unknowns stop us from reaching our goals. In our faith journey we have times when we cannot see how we can ever make it through the path or the trials facing us. In these times we must focus not on the goal or the end, but on the simple and basic things we know can see us through. We need to focus on our prayer life and lift our burdens and fears to God so our minds do not dwell upon them. We should seek out and hold fast to the people who can walk with us on our journey, knowing they will, through the Holy Spirit, guide, direct, and support us. We can find strength in reading the scriptures, the word of God. Through scripture we are reminded God is with us in all of our dark valleys. In all our trials God walks with us. When we are faced with a seemingly impossible task we must stick to the basics and trust God will get us through the challenges we face. We place our trust in Jesus Christ who gives us the strength to meet our challenges one step at a time.