I had the most wonderful opportunity last weekend to take a hike with my oldest and my youngest. There is an 18 year span but you would never know it as they are close. This hike was on Camelback Mountain: one of the most popular places to hike in Phoenix, Arizona.
I was warned that it was probably one of the most difficult climbs but I was optimistic. I had been walking almost every day on my lunch break to get in shape for hikes such as these and I thought it would be no problem. Boy was I wrong.
Half a mile in and I looked up to see a very steep climb through rocks. So steep that the state parks department installed one inch steel pipe hand rails I dubbed the ‘Iron Rod” so everyone could have something to hold onto.
I really didn’t know if I could do it. I stood there looking almost straight up and thought, how in the world am I going to get to the top? Both my children encouraged me that I could in fact do it and we would take it a step at a time so I started and held onto the iron rod. The trail then flattened out until the next great climb. After succeeding to climb the first one, I knew I could do the second one. I had an iron rod to hold onto.
There several metaphors which can be used from my experience. The first one was to hold on to the “iron rod.” Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) are very familiar with the story from the Book of Mormon about the “iron rod”. The story is from a dream that father Lehi was given of this vision of a straight and narrow path was had led to the tree of life which had delicious fruit to eat.
The vision starts off with a man dressed all in white who bides Lehi to follow him along to a large and spacious field. This field had a path alongside a river and on the path was an iron rod which people held onto to get to this tree. There were many people pressing forward to get to the tree but some people on the path let go and got lost in a mist. Some fell in the river but those who held onto the iron rod made it to the tree of life and tasted of the precious fruit.
I certainly needed that iron rod to climb up the mountain and then down again so I wouldn’t fall back on the way up or forward on the way down. I held onto that rod as if my life depended on it and it did if I wanted to travel safely up and down the mountain.
Just like in the story we have spiritual “iron rods” that we must hang onto. For example: Praying both morning and evening with our families or our daily study of the word of God as in reading of scripture verses and pondering their meaning, meeting together as a family once a week at home for family time and weekly church attendance. These spiritual consistent activities help us hold onto the iron rod so we will not fall off the path of righteousness.
The other metaphor or lesson I learned on this hike was of how we don’t like doing hard things. As human beings we want to take the easy way in life. I could have stopped when the climb got very difficult but as my daughter reminded me, sometimes it’s good to do hard things. I saw the top of that mountain climb and thought it would be just too hard for me to get to there but I did it anyway. I succeeded. I had to try and keep trying. Many times people see a “mountain to climb” and don’t even try because they think it is too hard.
Our goals in life could seem like climbing mountains but if we take a step at a time, holding onto something solid then we will be successful. Sometimes we try to prevent others from doing hard things because we are afraid they will fail but with encouraging words they can be successful too. We all need to do hard things as we learn so many lessons. It builds or character.
From the LDS Church, Henry Erying gave a talk in General Conference in April of 2007 called “This Day” and said: “Hard as things seem today, they will seem better in the next day if you choose to serve the Lord this day with your whole heart.” With righteous living as we hold onto the rod of iron and pressing forward through hard things, we can be successful.
I was so invigorated after we got back to our car that I had this euphoria all the rest of the day. I felt so good that I had tried and was successful. We have already planned our next hike up Camelback Mountain and I look forward to the struggle as I hold onto the iron rod.
Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for over 25 years. As a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she promotes Christian living in her writings and is the mother of nine children and grandmother to twelve. Mrs. Steimle authored six books and is a contributing writer to several online websites. To her, time is the most precious commodity we have and knows we should spend it wisely. To read more of Valerie's work, visit her at her website, The Blessings of Family Life.