Several years ago, I was privileged to go hiking in the Snowy Mountains. The first day was an exquisite November day – blue skies and sunshine. Our team were told that there were a few snowdrifts on the route back. Now, while all of us had done some preparation around Mt Cootha, training to walk through deep snow was definitely not part of it, but we managed. The next day we were to summit Mt Kosciusko.
A weather front moved across during the night and our beautiful blue skies were replaced with cloud, rain and wind. We set out in very poor conditions to commence the 9km hike to the top. As we walked, the weather worsened and the wind rose to more than 60km hour. The temperature continued to drop to below zero and visibility was reduced to a few metres. As I considered the contrast with the previous day, I was reminded that our lives can be like that. One day everything’s going beautifully and we’re pretty content with our lives. The next, something’s happened and we feel like we’re in the midst of a ferocious storm, being buffeted from all sides.
While we’d been warned to be prepared for any type of weather, none of us expected anything like what we experienced. The only toilet block had snow drifts up to its eaves, so sheltering there was completely out of the question. So too, we can think we’re prepared for anything, but sometimes situations unlike anything we’ve ever experienced or even considered arise. About 500m from the summit, a decision was made to turn back – paths had been completely covered in snow, a wrong one had been chosen by an inexperienced guide and the weather was worsening. Sometimes the only wise option is to give up an idea. At first we may feel disappointment, but it doesn’t mean failure and we need to show ourselves compassion.
Returning to our starting point 8 ½ km away was the real challenge. We knew that we had to walk through a couple of kilometres of deep snow, and there was only one tiny crowded shelter on the way back. Several times we experienced complete white-out and that was frightening. It was impossible to see other walkers and at those times it was necessary to stop, wait for the wind to drop a little and try and glimpse a marker (2m high black poles). Continuing to walk when you have no visibility can prove fatal. There are times when we’re facing difficulty and we honestly have no idea what to do and we struggle to see how to move forward. All we can do is take one step at a time – one day, one hour or even one moment at a time.
Visibility improved in the last couple of kilometres and we saw what we’d missed earlier – beautiful views of the mountains and the Snowy River. The support of the other hikers was a great help and on more than one occasion I called on God to help me get through. Giving up and not walking those final kilometres was not an option for us.
I think of the task of parenting – it can be one of the most difficult challenges people face and it’s one where we have to continue on – giving up is just not an option. Our struggles won’t last forever and even though we may not see it at the time, there is still good. We all need other people and God can be our greatest support in times of trouble if we allow Him to be.