My hands shook like I was about to play Beethoven’s Pathetique to a stadium full of people. I peeled off to the side.
I peeled a banana, fingers trembling.
I’d only gone about 100 yards. This was humbling.
Ten days earlier, I’d loaded up two backpacks with things like shampoo leaves, wool socks and peppermint-flavored Pepto and headed for Asia. I knew it was going to be tough. The only time I’d ever been at an altitude even close to this high was on an airplane, and the only acclimating necessary for that is to work the right dent into the neck pillow. This was the kind of altitude that could do some damage fast.
Not to mention that the “mountain” I’d been running repeats on in England looked like a zit compared to these completely vertical ridges.
But even so, I was ready. Or at least that’s what I’d thought when I arrived in country.
I had two completely fantastic meals that I managed to get from the plate to my mouth with chopsticks.
“I could eat this food forever,” I thought.
Twenty-four hours later, I couldn’t even manage to get off the floor.
“I’ll never eat this food again,” I thought.
A few days later, with me sipping some Victory Vitamin Water, we talked about my chances of making it up the mountain. And the next mountain. And the next.
“I got sick like this once before when I’d trained for a marathon for months,” I said.
I’d trained. I’d gotten sick. There was no way to recover in time.
“It’s like that,” a teammate said. “This is like a marathon … or maybe more.”
So here I was, a week and a half later, much lighter … and not in a good way. Geared up for an “adventure” trip and barely able to keep toast in. Lightheaded and noshing a banana just to get to the path to begin the ascent. My pride hurt.
I’m so thankful my compadres were patient.
And I’m so thankful He had plans of His own. With their patience, we went up and over a different ridge than we’d planned (we had split for the week, and half the team went on the long trek). We descended into a village that was holding a big Buddhist festival. The monks blew conch shells, the prayer flags fluttered in the breeze and the people spun little prayer wheels. As long as they kept them spinning, prayers were headed up to Buddha, whether they were actually praying or not.
My heart hurt, completely unrelated to the altitude.
But just outside the tent full of wheels and conchs and incense, some of my friends were sharing the Story in one of the local languages, holding their trekking poles in the shape of a cross and talking about the sacrifice that would free them from the bondage. Of the One who created the mountains stretching upward on each side of their valley.
They had never heard.
More heard because we divided … because I couldn’t go where we’d originally planned. I wouldn’t have picked it, but He knew what He was doing.
It’s His story, after all … and He writes it really, really well.
“In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:18