Did you know that there is a special group of rules governing hikers’ etiquette? Perhaps you’ve never even thought about it! Well, let me share a few etiquette rules for the next time you’re hiking up or down a mountain…
- Bikers yield to hikers, who yield to horses. When you’re hiking along the trail and realize someone is riding a horse toward you, you need to get out of the way and let them pass. In the same way, hikers have the right of way before bikers.
- Stay on the trail, and leave no trace–no garbage, no doggie doo, and no food scraps like banana peels or apple cores.
- Yield to uphill traffic.
There are more, but that’s a good start for not ruining others’ day of hiking as you’re out and about!
I want to explore Number 3 a bit: Yield to uphill traffic.
I took this picture on our way down the Amphitheater Lake Trail of Grand Teton National Park. If you want to know more about this trail, visit Teton Hiking Trails, and see someone else’s cool photos of where it leads! The higher I climbed on this trail, the slower my steps became, and my breathing became more and more labored. The simple things became the hardest! The trail itself wasn’t steep, but the altitude and lack of oxygen knocked me for a loop.I’m pretty sure I was dealing with altitude sickness by the time we reached the top, at 9698 feet, and was in no mood to enjoy the beautiful scenery. I didn’t even want to eat lunch. I was just plain grumpy, and ready to be done. But . . . I had to hike back down to the trailhead, five miles and almost 3000 feet below.
No matter how irritable or how much of a hurry I was in to get back to camp, I still needed to maintain trail manners!
There’s a reason downhill traffic must yield to uphill hikers. Once you’re climbing, it’s easier to keep your momentum going than it is to stop and start again each time you pass someone on the trail. Those hiking down get help from gravity!
As Christians, I think we should have the same courtesy for one another. There are different kinds of mountains we climb on this journey, and those who’ve made it to the top and are on the way back down need to give way to those still climbing.
The Mountain of Difficulty
The Bible has several words for this mountain: trouble, trial, suffering, and tribulation, to name a few. I’m pretty sure you have climbed this mountain a time or two in your life. Think back to how hard it was to get to the other side of one of those climbs. Not so easy, was it? I’m also certain that there were people in your life who provided what they thought were words of encouragement, but at the time sounded hollow and empty.
Do you remember, as you think back, how you felt about those who just listened when you needed an ear, even if they didn’t say much in return? They may not have been climbing the same mountain, but whatever was going on in their lives at the time yielded to the pain you were going through.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times.” (ESV) It’s easy when we’re in a trouble-free stretch of our own journey to forget the agony of the climb. We need to love by extending grace and mercy to those in our lives who are struggling through a season of difficulty.
When we encounter someone going through tough times, we can’t expect them to react to normal inconveniences with the same grace and aplomb they may normally do. The simple things may become the hardest to do. How can we step in and yield our own agenda to meet their need?
- Perhaps drop off a homemade dinner for the family?
- Send a handwritten card of encouragement, letting them know you’re praying for them?
- Take them out for coffee and just sit and listen, with no agenda to try to “fix” things for them?
- Offer to babysit while they take care of extra responsibilities?
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
1 John 3:18 NLT
Pray and ask God how you can actively love someone in your circle who is currently climbing a mountain of difficulty.
The Mountain of Maturity
This is another mountain we may struggle yielding on. You would think maturity would lead us to better behavior and a higher mindset, but it’s not always so! The trouble comes when we think we’re farther along on our journey than we really are, and we become proud of our progress.
Pride is a sneaky thing, isn’t it? We forget the mess God called us out of, and forget the sins our record held before he cleared it. We forget that all of the good we’ve done and all of the goodness we claim as our own is really God’s doing in and through us. We take credit for being so wonderful, when all the credit belongs to God!
From this lofty viewpoint, we look down on those who haven’t reached the same level we think we have. We point fingers at their weaknesses, scoff at their failures, and impatiently demand their self-improvement. We have set ourselves up as judges of the weak, when we ourselves have no strength but what has been given to us.
Our self-righteous judgments become stumbling blocks to their growth, boulders added to a climb that can already be plenty strenuous. Are there not already enough verses in Scripture calling us to the hard work of denying ourselves and following Christ’s example of self-sacrifice? Does the Holy Spirit really need our help in speeding up others’ journey to maturity?
Should we not, instead, offer them grace and mercy as they strive to live a life pleasing to God and learn to follow his ways? It’s a process that too many of us try to rush in others’ lives. We become like the Pharisees, who crushed people with unbearable religious demands and never lifted a finger to ease the burden (Matthew 23:4). There’s a vast difference between coming alongside someone to help them along on their journey, and yelling at them to hurry up and finish!
On our hike up to Amphitheater Lake, I led and my husband followed. Why? Because I’m the slower, more out-of-shape one! If he was in front, he’d leave me in the dust without even realizing it. Following me patiently up the mountain, he would make me stop for water breaks, rest breaks, and a puff or two of oxygen from a can we carried with us. He didn’t scold me for getting so v-e-r-y s – l – o – w as we reached the end of the trail. I can promise that would not have gone well . . . but instead, he let me set the pace, and we made it to the end together.
So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:11-12
Who is someone who could use a cheering partner on their journey in the faith? Send them an encouraging note, and pray for them.