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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The last stretch is the hardest.

My favorite hike in LA is climbing Griffith. It takes you right past the observatory and to a peak that allows you to see the entire city of LA. I try to hike it at least once a week, but I'm going to try and go up at least three times a week during this 62 day project. I've already hiked it twice and it hasn't been easy because the temperature has been close to 90 degrees. Its been brutal and the first time I went up, I took the long windy (but nearly flat trail) with my buddy Alex. We pretty much strolled up the hill whistling as we went up. The second time I went with my buddy Dave. We decided to go up the hard trail. It was tough, but I found it much more rewarding.

Griffith, if you take the "short cuts" (hard trail), has 4 major stretches. The first is the hike up to the observatory. The second and third ones are dusty trails that allow you to cut through the long windy trails. By the second leg, I'm usually panting. By the third one, I'm usually cursing under my breath trying to convince myself that I'm not crazy for doing this in 90 degree weather. If the weather is cooler, the hike is significantly easier, but if not, the hot sun beats down at you like a bad parent to their helpless kid. The fourth leg is brutal. Not only is it the steepest of all the legs, but it has the softest dirt beneath your feet making it feel like you are hiking a sand dune at times and it comes when you are already tired from hiking 20-30 minutes uphill in the heat. The thing is, there is no satisfaction that comes like the satisfaction that comes from hiking all four of the "short cuts" together. You can mix and match, and decide to go up the easier trails at the end of each leg as the two intersect at multiple points, but no matter how many times I've hiked Griffith, I have only found myself satisfied when I hike the four "short cuts" - especially the last leg.

I've been noticing these parallels in my faith walk too. I have found that I don't have to push myself in my faith, to have a great fervor and urgency to know God more and deeply, and be fine hiking the easy trails of my faith. However, as I am pushing myself to new limits in my faith, I am seeing the greater reward of knowing God more intimately through it. I liken it to going through truly difficult circumstances with people. I've never gone to the military, but if I did, I would reckon that my sense of brotherhood and friendship with the people I served with wouldn't be nearly as solid or deep if we had just regular civilian friendships. Most people don't have the type of friendships that I see veterans have with each other. My friend Tim (who I consider the younger brother I never had) has this band of brothers that he is always there for. They may be a little crude, but they have each others best interests and backs at all costs, even death. I think its only because they went through some really tough times together that they developed an incredible sense of value for the other person and have seen the other person pull through for them, constantly covering their backs for them.

I can't really say that my hiking analogy is the same as going to war, nor is my devotion to spending more time with God, but it will serve a purpose for the time. When I pray, I find myself at a point when I no longer want to pray and most of the time have nothing else to pray about, yet I know its because I am just distracted, tired, or lazy from praying that I feel this way. I have been trying new things out where I am reading more scripture during my times of prayer at the intersections when I can either choose the easy trail or the harder "short cut" and then praying through the Bible. It definitely takes more time and much more discipline, but I am finding God in new ways as I simply choose to take the road that requires more discipline. At each intersection, I am finding myself wanting to quit or give up, and many times, I do. But the days which I push through to get to know God, God always shows up. He meets me where I am at, shows me more of himself through the process, and displays His love through my emotional and cognitive life. There is a greater sense of peace, a higher sense of joy, and a perspective that I gain into my deficiencies as a person and my abundance in Christ. As I choose to go to battle with Him (or hike the more difficult trail) God covers me completely and pushes me uphill. At the end, as I am looking down on the city, I find myself more grateful and in awe of who God is.

All I know is that God honors every little effort we make to just spend time with Him. We always have a choice regardless of how busy we are; its a matter of preference and discipline. We should prefer God because he is preferable. After all, what can compare?

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