This essay of mine appeared on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog on September 5.
When my friend called and said he got a last-minute permit to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim, and asked if I wanted to go with him, I didn’t even hesitate.
Of course I wanted to go. I had never considered such a thing before. I didn’t even know people did this. And I clearly didn’t know how hard it was going to be. But there it was.
I had been to the Grand Canyon only once before with my wife and kids.
It was a really hot and crowded day.
(Wait – Arizona, on Labor Day weekend. No need for previous sentence).
My family and I gazed out as far as we could from the sidewalk, squinting and sweating, glancing around for an air-conditioned gift shop. It’s one of those places where it’s hard to really get a sense of it when you’re up on the sidewalk. So a chance to walk down into the very bottom of the canyon was appealing.
I sought out people who had done it. Some had run down and up. Show offs. Some had done it several times. But most people I talked to hadn’t even considered it. It wasn’t on anyone’s bucket list that I knew of.
But my friend and I did it. We hiked down one day, camped at the bottom and hiked back up the next day. It was awesome, difficult, and I recommend it.
Two things jumped out at me on this trip.
One was how beautiful it was. Every mile seemed like another million years of creation. The other was how unprepared most of the people were who were on the trail.
I’ll show you my pictures sometime to prove the former. But I saw people run out of water within the first couple of miles. One lady fainted from heat stroke. Some people were in sandals.
One guy I passed on the trail, whose legs had turned to cooked spaghetti noodles within the first few hours, was stunned at how hard of a time he was having. I talked with him and his wobbly wife for a few moments while they rested for the 500th time.
I asked how they had prepared for the trip.
“We felt like we were in pretty good shape because we golf a couple of times a week,” he said. “We didn’t do anything else.”
His wife was carried out the next day on the back of a mule.
Here’s the thing about going into any difficult experience. It helps if you’ve done some conditioning beforehand.
This is why I run. Not because I’m trying to set a record or even because I like it that much. I usually try to find reasons to not run. But I run so that, when something comes up where I’m going to need to be in shape, I’m ready. Or at least more ready.
This is why I try to write several times a week.
I also try to avoid this. But it keeps my skills up, keeps my head in the game so that when an opportunity arises for something bigger, I don’t have to work myself into condition.
This is also why it’s a good idea to keep up on our spiritual disciplines. Meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship and celebration can be a part of our rhythm of life, just like running and eating our vegetables.
We try to avoid these, too.
But when life forces us to go down to the very depths, if we’re in shape, we have the strength and stamina to do it, and enough left to walk back out.
Have you ever faced something where you were glad you had “exercised” ahead of time so that it didn’t overwhelm you? How about a time when you wished you had been better prepared?