ABOUT FAITH: Con­quer­ing the Lady

The Covington News - - Religion - Brian Dale

As a boy, I went with my fam­ily on a vacation through the Western states. We vis­ited the most pop­u­lar desti­na­tions: Yosemite, Yel­low­stone, and the Grand Canyon, but the grand­est des­ti­na­tion was Zion Na­tional Park, made mem­o­rable by my fa­ther’s moun­tain climb­ing ad­ven­ture.

By the time we ar­rived in south­ern Utah, Dad was tired of the end­less driv­ing. He in­quired of a park ranger what would be a good trail to hike. The ranger looked us over and rec­om­mended the Canyon Over­look Trail. “It’s easy,” he said, “about a mile, and not too much of a climb.”

“I don’t want easy,” Dad replied. “I want this to be a real ad­ven­ture for us. What is the most chal­leng­ing trail you have that doesn’t re­quire moun­tain climb­ing equip­ment?”

“I guess that would be Lady Moun­tain Trail,” said the ranger, war­ily. “But I should warn you, a lot of hik­ers find it too dif­fi­cult. It is not for the faint of heart.”

The warn­ing made Dad all the more de­ter­mined. The ranger filled us in on the pre­cau­tions to take, and the time we should al­low. The next morn­ing, the dar­ing ones in the fam­ily (among which I proudly counted my­self) awoke early to make our as­sault. Lady Moun­tain (so named for its out­line that seems fem­i­nine to only the loneli­est pi­o­neers) re­quires a 2,345-foot as­cent over 1.6 miles. We had ten­nis shoes in­stead of hik­ing boots, and my In­sta­matic cam­era in­stead of hik­ing poles. We had sun­screen, but no wa­ter. I was to­tally un­pre­pared for this en­counter with the Lady, an ex­pe­ri­ence I would re­peat again and again as I grew older.

As we made progress to­ward the top, the chal­lenges on the trail be­came more daunt­ing. In two places, chains were embed­ded into sheer cliff for hold­ing onto while our feet shim­mied across a nar­row ledge for about twenty yards. Above us, we could see no end; be­low was an 80-foot drop. In a third place, we climbed a tow­er­ing steel lad­der mounted onto the hill­side. But what fright­ened me the most was a place where there was no hand hold at all. It was a sheer rock face which slanted down to the left as we tra­versed across it. The sand­stone un­der­foot seemed to crum­ble as we walked, pro­vid­ing no sta­ble foothold, and there was noth­ing to grab as our feet shifted on the rock. Be­low was a drop I could only imag­ine; the bot­tom was be­yond my sight.

There were a dozen times when I trans­ferred mem­ber­ship from the “dar­ing” to the “faint of heart.” But with each ob­sta­cle, my dad of­fered en­cour­age­ment and ad­vice. “Place your left foot here and hold on up there. Now swing your right foot over here and reach for my hand. Try to keep your leg from shak­ing so much. You can do it!” By the time we got back to our rented cabin, I was a moun­taineer ex­traor­di­naire, and, hav­ing con­quered the Lady, was on my way to man­hood.

Lady Moun­tain Trail has since been closed to all but ex­pe­ri­enced climbers. The chains and lad­ders are gone, and climbers must now bring their own ropes, cara­bin­ers and pi­tons. On that moun­tain, I left be­hind the sweat of fear, and took with me the un­der­stand­ing, deep in my bones, that my Fa­ther will guide me. “Be­cause you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall be­fall you… For he will com­mand his an­gels to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash our foot against a stone.” (Psalms 91:9ff). Some­times the great­est chal­lenges we face are the ones that God gives us to teach us He is there.

The Rev. Brian Dale is the pas­tor of Allen Me­mo­rial Methodist Church in Ox­ford.

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