The Valley of the Shadow

Courtesy: flickr.com

One of my favourite hiking destinations is Selby Alley’s Hut.  It is an awesome yet challenging hike.  It seems to be forever up before you finally cross a moss covered log bridge to a tiny decaying tin hut in the middle of rainforest.  There are some magnificent breaths of beauty along the way, both at look outs and in the valleys. Mostly it is a journey of commitment. 

Although the start of the hiking trail is marked“Difficult”, it is not a truly difficult walk.  No scrambling up the sides of banks, no running so you don’t accidentally roll headlong down a hill, no bush bashing.  In fact the path is quite wide for most part.  There are well placed logs and rocks for resting on along the trail.  And the joy of walking through God’s creation… taking in the sounds of birds and spying beautiful flowers among the foliage… 

The difficult part is the endurance.  You start off eager and excited, trying not to spend too much energy too quickly.  As the hours tick by and each new slope is conquered your steps become slower, your backpack becomes heavier and the rest stops longer.  The excitement is replaced with determined focus on the goal ahead, the final resting place, home for tonight.  At each bend you tell yourself that the hut must be around the next corner… You tell yourself that the worst must be over.  You check your watch and query the sun’s flight westward. Some turn back… but you know that if you stick it out, the rewards are worth the effort. 

The first time I took this journey we set out at 11:30 at night. The moon was full, the shadows long and as a skinny fourteen year old my courage was questioned.  When we started I didn’t know just how far we had to go.  I didn’t know how steep the mountain side was, nor how deep the valleys.  I didn’t know it would not only take physical endurance but also emotion and mental fortitude.  But I did know my leaders.  My faith was in them that they wouldn’t ask me to do something that was beyond my capability.  And when the 18 and 19-year-old men came bounding down the trail to say they had found the hut and it wasn’t far now and cheered us on, my spirits lifted as I trusted their experience and wisdom.  But I still had to walk, and walk, and walk, and walk. 

Finally, with dawn approaching, we made it! I made it! And the rewards were beyond what I had imaged! The log we crossed to the hut lay over a gorgeous waterfall, set among ferns and rocks and moss.  The trees and bush surrounding the hut were genuinely Australian, down to the bush turkey scratching in the shrub. Despite the pure exhaustion I took a moment to drink in my surrounds.

Life is like a hike to Selby Alley’s Hut. It has its up and its downs and you just don’t know how long it will take or what is around the corner.  It could be a stone on the side of the path at just the right place to enjoy panoramic views of the valley or could be another steep climb down and up a valley.  All you can do is trust in The One who knows and keep on walking, walking, walking.

Unlike a parent who answers that infuriating “are we there yet” with “soon” when you have barely left home, Jesus knows exactly how long you have to go to get through this valley. He knows exactly how many steps and how many breaths you have left to take.  He knows when you will arrive and how you will feel along the way. He knows the rewards at the end of the road. And He will walk every single step at your side. It’s His promise.

“Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will be with you.” Ps 23 v 4

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