“You’re doing fine,” I assured Willie, giving him a smile. Glancing down the mountain, I wondered if the words were for his benefit or mine. My hiking boots were planted on the loose shale, my fingers digging into a boulder as I watched Willie inching down the rockslide toward me.
We were hiking in Ram Range, a mountain range in the Canadian Rockies. Willie was nine years old, my friend Angie’s younger brother. He, Angie and I and five others of our group had climbed up a mountainside to a shallow cave, and then discovered that going down is harder than going up.
From where I stood just below the cave, I could look all the way down the valley to the east where we’d hiked the day before. The river snaked back and forth, early morning sunlight glinting off the water. To the west the valley continued around to the pass we’d be climbing later that day. Almost straight below us was our camp, where Angie’s dad, a mere speck, stood watching us.
Without letting go with my hands, I slid one foot down slightly, then the other. We’d climbed up an old rockslide, clambering easily over the large rocks at the bottom. Towards the top the mountainside had gotten steeper and the rocks more slippery, and we had to use hands and knees to get up.
After sitting in the cave, admiring the view, we’d started down. Angie and the others soon got ahead as Brandon and I went slower to help Willie. Brandon was in Grade 12 as I was and we were casual acquaintances.
Planting my feet again, I held my hand up to Willie.
“Slide down right here,” I said.
He reluctantly let go of Brandon’s hand and slid. When he was standing beside me, I continued on, feeling less secure now that Willie clung to my left hand. It meant I had one less hand to hang onto the rocks with.
Below, Jason waited, directing us over an awkward rock. He and Brandon were close friends, but while Brandon was daring, Jason was cautious. Like us, he was going slow. With Willie sitting on the rock, I let go of his hand and crawled down where Jason showed me, keeping my body low to the rocks. Then I turned to help Willie, offering my hand again.
The mountains were my domain, the place I loved to be. This was my idea of fun. Nevertheless, even I wasn’t immune to height and gravity. I was sure we would make it down, but a niggling little fear in the back of my mind considered what could happen if one of us made a wrong move…
Hanging onto the rock, I eased over to give Brandon room to get down. As I clung to the large, solid rock, a phrase drifted through my head: “Rock of ages, cleft for me, let my hide myself in Thee…” I found myself smiling, and thought, “Thank you, Lord.” My confidence returned, I continued down the mountainside, clinging to what bushes and rocks I could find and guiding Willie.
About halfway down we were over the worst of the rocks. I walked sideways, holding Willie’s hand, while Brandon took Willie’s other hand. We moved faster, jumping down the rocks until we reached the bottom.
As we continued hiking, every rock I saw reminded me of the words that had assured me of God’s presence and kept me going. Repeatedly through the Scriptures, God is referred to as a Rock. Clinging to the mountainside that day, I discovered just what that meant.
God is the Rock I can cling to when life seems a slippery rockslide.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold..” ~ Psalms 18:2