“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” is a series of church worker wellness devotions. Visit lcms.org/wellness for more resources.
By David Sorensen, pastoral psychotherapist
The journey and the view from the top
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Ps. 121: 1–2 NIV)
When I was 19 years old, I had the good fortune of working in Yosemite National Park for the summer.
While there, I decided to hike that portion of the John Muir trail that climbs to the top of Half Dome. The 5,000-foot high granite face of the dome towering over the valley floor of Yosemite makes a profound impression; the seven-mile hike to the top even more so.
The hike ascends alongside Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall, where the spray of the water feels cool and refreshing on the skin.
A little farther, the air picks up the sweet scent of the flowers and plant life in Little Yosemite Valley and the Ponderosa pine in the forested wilderness beyond.
Several hours later comes the steep granite steps up the sub dome, and then comes the final ascent to the summit, rewarding the determined hiker with a breathtaking view of the valley floor below.
I did not notice it at the time, but I have since come to realize that not everyone who begins the hike reaches the top.
Without enough water, some become dehydrated and must turn back. Others discover that tennis shoes and everyday footwear do not have the necessary traction that a good hiking boot provides on the sometimes slippery granite rock.
There is a wonderful surprise waiting at the top for anyone who successfully reaches it: a majestic, almost surreal view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east.
The mountains are unseen from the valley floor below, but, on a clear day, they are visible from the top of Half Dome, stretching out in all their glory as far as the eye can see.
It seems to me that just as the hike to the top of Half Dome has both its challenges and rewards, so does our life of faith.
Following the One who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, we set our sights on near and distant goals, motivated by a Christ-inspired vision and a Spirit that empowers us.
We commit ourselves to a path of service that unfolds before us, one step at a time, as we prayerfully consider and choose among the various opportunities that present themselves.
In times of disillusionment and discouragement we discover that our journey can become more challenging than we expected.
Sometimes bruised, sometimes tired, sometimes thirsty, we may wonder if it would be better for us if we turned back.
But something in us calls us forward. Or is it Someone, who, with a word and a whisper, challenges us to lift up our eyes, expand our vision, and construct a deeper sense of mission and purpose?
As we reach out to others, we discover that we are not alone.
Indeed, there are others on this path with us. There are angels watching over us, and there are Everlasting Arms beneath us.
A cross and an empty tomb point us to a vista and a glory unending that cannot be seen from the valley floor, waiting to be revealed, waiting for all who by God’s grace see this journey through, one step at a time, one day at a time, one prayer, and one word at a time.
Lord, your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. When I am tired and weary on this journey, revive me and refresh me with Your presence. My help comes from You. Help me to see more deeply into the lives and hearts of others on this path and know that I am not alone. Let Your word shine on me and lead me, that I may rejoice in You, and in this life of faith You have given me, and in all that You have prepared for me. Amen.
“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” devotions and prayers will be released Monday mornings on the LCMS Facebook and Twitter pages. Church Worker Wellness devotions will also be archived online.
LCMS church workers and their families are invited to offer encouragement to other workers and families by submitting a 500-word devotion for the Synod’s worker-to-worker wellness devotion series. Email questions and submissions to email@example.com.