As I wrote in part 1, the elders of First Christian Church blessed our Children's Minister, Brooks, and I with an opportunity for a spiritual retreat with CIY Wilderness in Colorado Springs at Bear Trap Ranch. I am always amazed at the beauty of God's handiwork in creation and Bear Trap will always hold a special place in my heart not just for it's beauty and simplicity but also as a place, where for a week, I simply got to talk to God.
You can’t talk to God or come face to face with God and walk away unchanged. Moses changed. Isaiah changed. The disciples changed. I changed. Now, I didn’t have quite the same experience as those guys, but how great would that have been? No mine was more subtle but just as powerful.
I love to explore. I’ve always had a natural curiosity that would take me off the beaten path and to see what new adventure was around the corner. So, when I heard there were hiking trails up the mountain sides I couldn’t wait to explore them all.
Thankfully, my sensibilities have matured to keep me from being reckless. I know the struggle of adjusting to altitude, the importance of hydration, and easing yourself into it. So, early the first morning I decided my first hike would be up Sugar Loaf Mountain to see the sunrise over Colorado Springs and the plains stretching to the east. The trail seemed as sweet and powderpuff as it’s name. It was a short 15 minute hike up 200 feet of elevation. This was the easiest trail on Bear Trap Ranch described as an “easy walk with your kids.” I started up the trail excited but it didn’t last long.
Only a third of the way up Sugar Loaf I was done.
Earlier that year I’d hiked a highly technical Black Canyon route with three point climbing that covered 10,000 feet in elevation round trip and here I was sucking wind like I’d run a marathon only 65 feet up the ascension from the trail head of a mountain named after something Grandma would serve for desert at Easter dinner. What gives? I was defeated.
Kyle Idleman wrote a book called the “The End of Me.” I read this book not long after our trek in the wilderness. The whole idea of the book was what I discovered in a very real way on the children's route of Sugar Loaf Mt. God starts where I end.
I was ready to turn back and I sat down at the edge of the trail. I was mad and frustrated, almost pouting. In the middle of a booming pity party I was stopped by a small nudging to keep going. In my mind I argued that I couldn’t. I told myself all kinds of things- I was too fat, I was too out of shape, I was too tired, I was too angry to enjoy the view anyway, I was too hungry, I’d be too late, I was too…
It’s amazing how much we focus on ourselves isn’t it? Why do we do that? I’m too ugly, stupid, unqualified, unfit, broken, and used. We come up with every reason possible that we should be done. Sometimes we’re wrong, but often the ugly reality is we’re right about who we are and in a moment where it has all failed we realize we’re not enough- I’m not enough.
In my moment of not being enough I heard God say again, “I know but I am, keep going.” I stood up and literally did the very thing I tell people to figuratively do all the time- I just put one foot in front of the other and kept my eye on Jesus. I made it to the top and saw the glory of God in His creation and felt the comfort of His presence. Not because I didn’t quit but because I did. I quit me.
I finished many other hikes that week, several much more difficult than Sugar Loaf, and even became a guide for two great friends I met there. All only through the power of Jesus because I quit myself. That’s one of the hardest and yet most freedom giving principles in Christianity. You aren’t enough and that’s the point. You can’t do it. I know that’s not the most uplifting message but take a quick look at the Tower of Babel, all the kings of Israel who decided to do it their way, Israel every time it became like their pagan neighbors, Adam and Eve when they took the fruit, Ananias and Sapphira, and many more who tried to do it their way and be the best them they could be for themselves. They all failed. It’s time to stop trying to be everything you can be. It’s time to quit yourself and let the Holy Spirit inside you be everything you can’t be. Redemption is found in the failing and coming to the end of yourself. Because that's when the greatest hope happens, that we can be taken from our brokenness and restored through the Spirit we receive at salvation because of Jesus. That's the truly good message, the Gospel message. That’s where freedom and the life Jesus really wants for you begins.
“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” - John 3:28-30