Peak Walk: When Your Fears Obscure Your View of the Future
I was seated near the front of the economy section of a 747 due to land in Tel Aviv in a few hours. Though it was the middle of the night, I was unable to sleep. The giant screen on the front wall of the plane was broadcasting CNN’s international coverage. When I saw the words “Live from Tel Aviv” I didn’t need to connect my earphones to grasp the severity of the situation.
Bombs had begun to fall in the very city where our American tour group would soon be landing.
I recall twisting in my seat, hoping to catch the eyes of other passengers or a member of the flight crew, but it was as if the Rapture had occurred. The situation in Israel had been so tense the past few weeks that most tour groups had cancelled. The big-bellied plane that could normally hold nearly 500 passengers had fewer than 80 aboard. With so many empty seats, the other passengers had taken entire rows to stretch out. I felt completely alone.
This memory from over a quarter century ago returned vividly the past few days as I watched in horror along with the rest of the world as the terrorist organization Hamas brutally attacked Israel, launching thousands of missiles while kidnapping and killing civilians.
Personal news arrived quickly: My friend Marlene’s close friend Susie was at Ben Gurion airport taking refuge in a bomb shelter. My former editor Anisa is still huddled in a hostel in Jerusalem seeking a way home after incoming flights were cancelled. An author friend sent live dispatches from his family home near Tel Aviv while missiles flew overhead deflected by Israel’s Iron Dome.
Chaos, terror, war crimes. Lord, have mercy.
Most of us will never come face-to-face with terrorists, but we face the terrors of our own fears. How do you move forward in confident faith when the future looks so fraught with danger?
When we were in Switzerland last month, Mike and I took a series of gondolas and cable cars up to the tip of Diablerets, a 10,000-foot peak in the southwestern part of the Alps near the French border. Our goal was to hike “Glacier 3000,” so named because of the 3,000-meter elevation.
But before we set out on our glacier trek, we needed to traverse a suspension bridge that stretched 350 feet to the summit of a nearby peak, Scex Rouge, that offers breathtaking views of the Matterhorn, Jungfrau, and Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps.
Brushing ice from the hand railings, I inched along, turning sideways when hikers approached from the opposite direction. My fear of heights (paragliding notwithstanding) is irrational but very real. With Mike at my back urging me on, I focused on the Swiss flag on the opposing peak with its distinctive white cross on a red field.
One step at a time, these tips are what helped me make it across:
- Look ahead, not behind
- Look up, not down
- Walk at your own pace
- Listen to advice from your fellow travelers
- Keep your eyes fixed on the cross
Crossing a suspension bridge at 10,000 feet in the air or paragliding from a slope in the Alps do not qualify as bravery, not by a long shot. These were discretionary choices. But as I write, I’m thinking of those of you traversing far more perilous “peak walks” — life situations with no guarantees you’ll reach the place you long to be:
A spouse who has betrayed you or placed you or your children in danger.
A medical diagnosis that has you caught between alarming possibilities.
An estrangement in your family that’s left you deeply sad, praying continually for your loved ones to come together again.
If you need to traverse terrain - physical or emotional - that scares you, perhaps those same principles will help you, too:
Face forward into the future God has promised and don't look back (Philippians 3:13-14)
Look up in hope, not down in despair (Romans 15:13)
Take the situation at your own pace, knowing God will direct your steps (Proverbs 16:9)
Seek the counsel of those who’ve walked this path before (Proverbs 12:15; 20:5)
Keep your eyes fixed on the cross, the symbol of the joy awaiting us at our journey’s end (Hebrews 12:2)
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka [weeping], they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:5-7
If you’re reading these words today, you’re a fellow pilgrim. You might be spiritually dry right now– passing through the Valley of Baka - but it’s autumn and the rains of refreshment are coming.
I pray that God will give you strength equal to the demands of your days until each of us appears before God.
And until then? Keep moving forward, beloved friend.
I’ve got your back.
- Maggie Wallem Rowe, 2023
If you'd like practical counsel on handling challenges, I recommend the interactive new book Keep Moving Forward by Melony Brown! It's available here.
Maggie Wallem Rowe writes from Peace Ridge, her home in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. The author of two books, she'll tell you that hiking in the Alps is not her favorite thing about traveling in Switzerland. Gruyere cheese and Cailler chocolate deserve a post of their own.