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This it the Tooth of Time. Rob and I made our way to the top of this peak last summer with the girls of Venture Crew 7701 and two other intrepid leaders. I prepared for months in order to be physically fit enough to make the six-day trek at 7,000 to 9,000 feet of altitude.

I have a bad back, so I was concerned that trudging around a 50 pound pack for a week would be more than I could handle. Turns out that this,

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the summit of the Tooth, was what  I could not handle. You see, I have a slight fear of heights. Not in all its possible manifestations, just some. I can fly in planes and hike  a smooth path on the side of a mountain, but put me on uneven, bouldered terrain, and I break into a sweat (and a swear). I think it is because I do not have a very good sense of balance. I am very tall with long arms and legs. I have no sense of a center of gravity. I am like Olive Oyl, Popeye’s damsel in distress, limbs flailing everywhere. At yoga, I am the spinning wind turbine in a room full of graceful tree poses. Namaste.

Experienced hikers say that the last portion of the climb to the summit is a short scramble on the rocks. For me it was clawing and scratching my way up Everest. Once there, I sat safely in the middle, away from the sheer drop surrounding us, while the rest of the group literally scampered about like mountain goats. When I had all I could take of the top, I headed down, on my rear end. Five points of contact! What we had failed to realize is that a bouldered ascent meant an uncharted, free-for-all descent. We foundered on the rocks, and I literally wrecked. As I hyperventilated and sobbed, my kind husband gently guided me back to the trail and we slowly made our way down.

When Jesus was born, his parents took shelter in a stable. That stable was likely a cave, and the manger in which he slept was likewise carved of stone. His life began and ended in hard rock. Indeed, He is called the Rock of our salvation, a sure foundation upon which we can build our lives, but a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” to the disbelieving and disobedient. When Israel wandered in the wilderness, life-sustaining water came forth from a rock.

The paths upon which we find ourselves during our time on this earth are often rocky. And sometimes, as on the top of the Tooth, there is no path, just huge boulders. Is there some meaning in the fact that the words used to illustrate our trials are the same ones used to define the means of our salvation? A divine contraposition? When I clung, shaking and sweating, to that igneous mass as I made my way to the trail which, though I could not see it, surely was there, was he saying “those stones are big, but I am mighty”? In holding on through the trial, clinging to the trial, we cling to Him.

I have had my share of rocks and boulders. I have had to watch while my children encounter their own. Watching those you love as they scale granite can be even harder and just as much a trial of faith. I do not have all the answers, but I trust in this –

I am Messiah,

the King of Zion,

the Rock of Heaven,

which is broad as eternity;

whoso cometh in at the gate

and climbeth up by me

shall never fall

(Moses 7:53)

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