My experience this week reminded me of an event that took place 49 years ago. I was serving as a new missionary for the LDS Church in the Flagstaff, Arizona area and our district, which included eight missionaries, spent one of our P-Days (preparation days) hiking down into the Grand Canyon from a South Rim starting point.
As we descended down the switchback trail, it was like visiting a museum of natural history as the high and dry mountain desert turned into a lush tropical terrain. Other travelers that day, who were riding mules, passed us in both directions on this seven mile trail.
We arrived at the muddy Colorado River where we dangled our feet, and felt victorious as took pictures to send back home. Soon we prepared for our return hike.
The first hour of hiking went well as we observed the awesome depth and breadth of this natural wonder from the opposite direction. But as tiredness and soreness set in, we soon came to realize that it would have been wise to have ridden mules. But wisdom is seldom a top priority for the young.
After two hours I was exhausted and my feet and calves were sore. I no longer observed the wide expanse of the canyon as I became very focused on the next step on the trail. I started telling myself, “Fall forward, and catch yourself,” as I developed a slow and steady rhythm of walking and breathing, with frequent stops to rest.
The distance between individuals in our group widened as we neared the summit. We came to realize later that it’s easy to stay together at the beginning of a project, but when reality sets in, the forces against success become clear, and individual strengths emerge, staying together becomes a real challenge. When all members of our group arrived at the starting point on the South Rim, we drove back to our areas, and slept most of the next day as we started to recover from this difficult recreational activity. My companion, the district leader who was a couple of years older than the rest of us, had played fullback for Mississippi State. And his being exhausted made me feel like less of a wimp.
This week, as tiredness and body aches increase, and sores in my mouth and throat persist, I can see myself on that trail long ago. I know where I’m going, toward a brighter future. I believe that I’m on the right path of treatment, even though it’s becoming a steep hike. And I must press forward, even fall forward, without a mule to ride, or a helicopter to pick me up. A Zone 4 move is toward/with, and not against, not away from. Even if going toward is a falling forward — it’s a small, but pure, act of faith and trust.
Tonight I feel much in common with our friends in the addiction recovery program, who are on their own steep path, as they pray to God daily for what to do, and then for the courage to take the next best step toward recovery and healing. The real victory for us is on the uphill side of our life’s climb, so let’s all keep moving on our individual trails, however long or steep!