By Katie Kafka
I am a mountain girl. The landscape captivates me every time. Crisp air, zealous sun, majestic summits, native meadows, delicate flowers, towering trees, meandering trails, rushing waterways to steady reservoirs; God meets me there as I encounter the wonder of my Heavenly Father in the context of His handiwork. Just being there renders my thoughts to a Higher focus, permeating my circumstances and nurturing my soul. God’s presence is undeniable.
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2
My family and I head to the mountains of Colorado nearly every summer. I cherish these moments where we can get away, just us, and blaze trails together. Time set aside to interact and engage as a family proves invaluable, lending so many opportunities to create memories. Collectively, we thrive in a setting elevated from normal life. We surround ourselves with the backdrop of His creation.
O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God And a great King above all gods, In whose hand are the depths of the earth, The peaks of the mountains are His also. Psalm 51:1-4
On our most recent trip, God used a moment with my son, Jude, to teach me so much about thriving, not just individually, but about thriving in community. The introvert in me gravitates toward thriving in solitude and yet the Bible is clear that as Christians we are to thrive in community as well.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Romans 12:10-13
We take our first steps on the rocky trail before us, a challenging yet manageable ascent. I too am new to this terrain, only privy to information available in the hiking guidebook. Expect three hours for this “more difficult” path, where trails start above the timberline, across alpine tundra, gaining a total of 1,244 feet in elevation ascending two summits.
My determined, six-year-old companion charges forward with minimal thought towards what is to come in the next 1.7 miles. We progress 50 feet or more and already mental fatigue controls the mindset of my little man. We start. We stop. We snack. We start again, reminding ourselves that our legs will get tired, but then we rest until we are ready to continue. Step by step we make it to the first summit acknowledging every bit of work that lung-buster took. Views above 13,000 feet are nothing short of spectacular. I’m overwhelmed by the vast beauty below and beyond, grateful I get to be present in this moment with Jude.
The first ascent completed, we embrace a well-deserved break returning full breath to our lungs. I lead us onward toward the second ascent trusting the details in the guidebook and the promise of a more pleasant, less taxing terrain. Jude on the other hand . . . well, he is done. Mentally, physically, he is ready for the descent. Overlooking his requests, I drive us onward anticipating the fullness of the entire experience. This mama struggles with quitting before the finish line. Where is the reward in that? Regardless of whether my fellow sojourner wanted to complete the hike, I would not settle for anything less. I knew that what lay ahead was beyond beautiful, but mostly I knew that little Jude could handle every next step. I knew he had the ability to thrive but, for some reason, he wasn’t rising to the occasion.
It took every last ounce of encouragement to get Jude up the second summit: motivating quotes, silliness, fruit snacks, the art of distraction and still more fruit snacks. We finally arrive at our destination. Proud of our accomplishment, my hope was that Jude would have a change of heart. That he would reach the top and have a “wow” moment.
Would he acknowledge that these views and this spot was worth the hard work? Would he be overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and show thankfulness for my bringing him to this point? Would he realize the wisdom in pressing onward in the journey because God has something incredible at the next summit?
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Philippians 2:1-2
Thriving in a community doesn’t necessarily look the way we think it should. It’s not a matter of me thriving over here and you thriving over there. My hike with little Jude was a personal testimony of just that. I learned that day that thriving as a community starts with compassion. We cannot control someone else’s ability or desire to thrive. Of course we want them to thrive but, in reality, our actions play the biggest role. Am I willing to walk alongside someone, offering Christ-like encouragement each step of the way? Compassion brings momentum to an otherwise fading journey, providing the fuel needed to collectively thrive in the company of others.