You are not an accident. You are a well thought out, pre-planned masterpiece that God, as the artist, has pursued every moment of your life. I realize you may not be in a place where you see it. You may feel abandoned or that everything about living as a masterpiece falls on you. You may feel lost in the storm all alone. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. God’s light is piercing through the darkness and headed straight toward you. The more you see and understand His pursuit of you, the more you will live in hope and, ultimately, a rich and satisfying life as His masterpiece. (John 10:10)
Climbing A Fourteener
I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains. I was 13 and had traveled with the youth group from our church in Ohio to a campground in the mountains outside of Colorado Springs. As we were driving up the pass in the middle of the night I could see Pikes Peak in the moonlight. I was amazed and captivated with the Rocky Mountains from that moment on. When my family moved to Colorado Springs two years later, I began to pursue my passion for hiking in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range (Spanish for “The Blood of Christ”) in southern Colorado, ultimately becoming a backpacking leader for youth groups who would visit from out of state. My goal was to ultimately hike all of the “fourteeners,” mountains above 14,000 feet, of which there are 54 in Colorado alone.
In my early twenties, after getting married and moving to Texas I periodically traveled to that area to hike, climb and fish. My plan for one particular trip was to fish for a few days with the guys, then spend the last day or two climbing to the top of a couple of the fourteeners. I convinced one of the men who went with me, Jim, to join me for the climbs. Having had previous experience as a backpack leader, I was confident Jim and I could reach the summit and get back to camp in a single day.
When Jim and I set off for the first fourteener, there were several things going against us. First, I didn’t tell the rest of the group which summit we would climb. Second, there was a 13,000-foot peak we’d have to climb first, then go back down in elevation to begin the ascent of the fourteener. Since we were camping just below tree line at about 12,000 feet, I didn’t see this as a big deal. Third, I had not anticipated how non-acclimated I’d become to high altitude after a few short years living in the plains of Texas. To top it off, we’d have to do some bush whacking to reach the summit because there was no pre-existing trail from where we set up camp.
Regardless, we set out that morning with vigor and full assurance we were going to conquer Humboldt Peak. Not long after noon, Jim and I reached the summit and enjoyed the view for half an hour before beginning our descent. Typical for that time of year, an afternoon storm was blowing in so we knew we needed to hurry back to camp. We reached the valley floor and were ascending back up the 13,000-foot peak between us and camp when the storm suddenly hit and the sun was setting. We knew we were in trouble. We got wet and began to get hypothermia. We could see the firelight from our camp a couple of miles down the mountainside, but in the dark we could not see well enough to make our way. I knew from my training we needed to hunker down and take our chances out in the elements.
The storm intensified and our only shelter was a rock formation; though we were tucked in beneath it as far as possible, it was not keeping us dry because of the slashing wind. As we hunched down in the dark of night it was hard to maintain hope. I knew even though it was July, it was still going to be a long and dangerous night. We did the only thing we knew to do. We prayed.
To our amazement, we noticed the light from several flashlights bobbing their way towards us from the direction of our camp. We kept praying. We watched them for several hours as they made decisions from one trail to another, all the while snaking up toward us. The hope birthed within me; watching their flashlights dip up and down as they hiked toward us was remarkable. Once within shouting distance, they came right to us. Unknown to me, one of my other friends from the area had hiked that day to our camp to meet up with us. Because of his expertise in those mountains, he skillfully led the group of men to rescue us. They led us back to camp where we ate and got warm by the fire. The only lasting injury from the day was to my ego.
You Are Being Pursued
Many times since I’ve pictured those dim flashlights leaving camp with fond recall of the hope it gave us in our moment of despair. It’s a picture of how God so passionately pursues us when we are lost, hurting, disoriented and alone in the darkness of life. He is making His way toward us in hot pursuit!