Looking down at the Citadel from the summit of Machu Picchu Mountain.
You often hear people say it’s not the destination it’s the journey and I think that can be true for many things and times in one’s life. And yet, sometimes it is the destination, the ending, or maybe even the top of the world in where the significance lies.
It’s then you realize how small you are in a very big world and that’s actually a very cool thing. It keeps you humble staying small. Your smallness never lessens the significance of the accomplishment.
At this stage in my life there are many things I’ll never be able to say I’ve done, experienced or accomplished. Parenthood is one for example; I will never hold a baby of my own flesh and blood in my arms or watch them as they enter kindergarten, middle school, high school, college, get married or watch them have babies of their own and all of those in-betweens. Trust me this was never my plan, but it’s how life worked out up to this point. That doesn’t lessen me or my value as a person. My life still has incredible meaning as a single childless person.
I’ve had a slew of opportunities come my way since my divorce and letting go of that dream. If I had children I wouldn’t of been able to do many of the things I’ve done. Missioning in Peru for two months this summer is just one example.
Today, I hiked to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain. It was a eleven years in the making. During my first trip to Piura people were talking about it, but it was never originally on my radar until missioning in Piura. It was then I desired the experience after hearing about others doing it and being in Peru multiple times. It was worth the wait and I’m glad I waited. Mostly because I understand the significance now.
Only 400 people are allowed up a day and you must buy your ticket well in advance. Many visit the Citadel, but only a few hike one of the two peaks Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu. Machu Picchu sits at a altitude – summit: 3,082 meters (10,111 feet) above sea level. I’ve been higher, but this was way harder.
It was the hardest money I ever worked for and the best money I ever spent in my life. The hike is not for faint of heart and anyone who tells you it’s easy is an insane hiking enthusiast or just unrealistic. I’ve done many other hikes, by far this one takes the cake! It took 2hrs up and 1 hr down with 20 minutes at the top. We had to get back down to catch the bus to the train station by a certain time. This is the first hike I’ve done with no mile markers so you have no idea how much further than trusting the words of hikers on the descend.
It’s a strenuous hike. It’s not for those who fear heights. It’s straight up stair climbing that winds around one step in front of the other on rocks laid by the Inca’s. There are no hand rails, but many were crawling. Due to losing a day of travel we had one day to acclimate to the high altitude. Trust me, I was sucking wind – but so was everyone one else around me. Another hiker was always there offering something needed, a smile, coca leaves, and lasting words of encouragement. A nice couple from Chile gave me a bag of coca leaves. Well it didn’t change everything, but it did give me a boost of energy to keep going.
However, be careful in trusting a hiker. Not one of them has an accurate estimate of how much longer to the summit. It reminded of an episode of the cartoon the Smurfs as a kid. They go on a hike or adventure and all the other Smurfs keep asking papa smurf how much longer and every time he responds with “not much longer now”. That too was my hiking experience to the top.
At least five times I heard “Oh about 45 minutes or so”. Problem being that was every half hour ago several times and it was still 45 minutes. How is that possible?
We saw people of all ages and from all over the world; Chile, England, Canada, Bulgaria. A young girl ten years old made it with her parents, lots of couples, and a whole lot of young adults. I’m sure if I was only 22 yrs old I would’ve been sucking a lot less wind! Not a doubt in my mind. Life is much different in the middle.
The top is worth the strain, the wait, and the hard work. There were times I couldn’t even look up as I had to focus on my next step. The higher you go the steeper the climb and the paths become more narrow.
The view is simply unbelievable. It’s indescribable. Exhilarating! Gratitude for not only that you made it, but gratitude for the one God that you got you to this very moment. For what I did is significant and what God’s done with me is simply a miracle of significances. It’s an overwhelming sense of the reckless love he has for me and all His children.
I would of never made it without my hiking partner, Juan. Many times I wanted to stop. To quit, to give up, yes through in the towel. That’s life though right. We’ve all been there when we just say enough, I can’t, no more, and then someone comes along and says “yes you can” “you can do it” “just keep going”. Some how you find the strength or maybe even courage to carry on and so you do. You just keep on keeping on. We’ve all been there. That’s grace.
And if I did quit which could of happened that would’ve of been ok to. We spoke to many who surrendered and descended down. There’s no weakness in that just humility. I have huge respect for those who told us they turned around.
One young man told me when I asked about the top. “Oh, I was so scared. I have a fear of heights, so I crawled on my hands and knees to the top toward the end”. That’s courage. That’s grace too.
It doesn’t always look pretty, but it doesn’t matter. It’s significant. He was brave enough to go on no matter how he looked and tell me about it. That’s some serious vulnerability. I responded with, “it doesn’t matter what you looked like. You did it and that’s courage!” He smiled. And said, Thank you.
Before we started I told my hiking partner that whenever I do these types of things I make a choice to leave something behind at the bottom because it’s always a spiritual experience. Every step leave a piece of something and choose to never pick it back up. The what doesn’t matter and there is no need for you to tell me what yours is, but make a choice to leave it.
I left the future. Every wants to know what’s next now that I graduated. What will I do, where will I work, on and on….
I haven’t a clue! Seriously, no idea. And I’m not going to worry about it. Instead I’m going to trust that if God got me to the top and surely He did, I trust He has my back in the future too.
It matters not how much I make, my title, where I work, what I own which is nothing by the way or what degree or accomplishments I’ve completed anymore. For it’s in the smallness that you realize your huge in God’s heart and you will serve him the best way you can with the gifts He’s given you.
So the top was an overwhelming sense of gratitude and there were a few tears as my heart was so moved that God got me to the summit of more than this mountain.
The Inca’s worshiped many God’s, there was a deity for the sun, the earth, the rain, creation and even death etc. They then would hike high into the mountains at a peak and worship the God’s. As I was hiking I thought man am I grateful to the one God I worship, Jesus Christ. For all I have to do is drop to my knees. No work or hike at all. I like my God much better. No need to suck wind for God.
Although there is something very mysterious and majestic about the town of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu and the entire Andes Mountain range. Maybe, it’s the mountains, what they built or the indigenous people. I don’t know. What I do know is you are a different person when you leave if you are open to transformation. That’s God to, once you know Him and journey with Him it’s you who change. Your image of God, your world view changes, because God never changes. He is and will always be.
My dad always use to say when we were kids the winning or losing doesn’t matter, the grade doesn’t matter, what matters is if you can honestly say you tried your best. If you gave it your all and if you did then that’s all you can do. If you didn’t try your best then you need to ask why?
Getting here looked ugly at times I know for sure. Today in that ascend, I probably looked pretty pathetic as I was panting trying to catch my breath. Yet, I never quit and there have been many times getting here that I wanted to throw in the towel, but by the grace of God I kept on.
Regardless, my view from the top was not only gratitude, but one of freedom. What I seek now requires a small storage locker and it’s one that grows. Best of all its rent free – my heart. There’s only one key.
The treasure of my wallet is my heart. The less I possess and own, the more I have over all. The great paradox of the spiritual life. To Wall Street my life may look empty, but on the inside I’m very rich.
What’s the treasure you store? Does it bring you joy or freedom? Do you know how infinitely significant you are to God? The Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Is there gratitude at the top of the mountains you’ve climbed?
I would not trade my view or hike for anything! Blessed is the broken road even if you rode the very edge at times or had to suck wind and crawl.
p.s. Tomorrow we fly out to the mission at Santismo Sacramento in Piura, Peru.