Hiking with my friend

Colorado Springs to the left.  Cheyenne Mountain to the right.

My view: Colorado Springs in the far left. Cheyenne Mountain rises in the distance.

Yesterday we had 10” of snow here in Colorado Springs. The mountains looked beautiful dressed in white. I had to get out and hike my favorite trail.

With all that fresh, wet snow (when it stopped snowing, the temperature had risen above freezing), I realized that this hike was going to be a bit more challenging, so I decided to bring my friend along. He was in the back of my car waiting for me to take him along on any hike. You see, in this case, my friend was my trusty hiking ice ax. It is a great tool to bring along while bushwhacking or hiking on difficult terrain. With the slippery trail, I thought I needed a friend to join me.

My hiking ax in a foot of snow along the trail.

My hiking ax in a foot of snow along the trail.

We all need friends.

There are three characteristics that my hiking ax possesses that makes it an extremely valuable hiking companion. These same characteristics are what make our real friends important as we journey through the ups and downs of our lives here on earth.

First, I lean on my hiking ax. When I hike up steep terrain, leaning on my ax allows my arms share the burden that my legs primarily carry. If the footing is loose, the third point connected to the ground that the hiking ax provides helps me retain balance.

Likewise, we all struggle on occasion. Life throws us a curve ball once in awhile. Dark times may happen or the road we are traveling gets slippery. This is when we need friends – to help share our burdens – to help us remain on the straight path – someone to lean on in our times of trouble. It is one of our responsibilities as Christians, to share one another’s burdens. Life is challenging; we need to develop strong relationships.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.   Galatians 6:2

Second, my ax helps maintain balance and perspective.  As I hike, I shift my ax between my left hand and my right depending on the terrain. If the mountain slopes up to my right, I place the ax in my right hand. If the mountain slopes up to the left, I switch hands. My ax helps keep perspective with respect to the big obstacle before me: the mountain.

Over a foot of snow along the forest trail.

Over a foot of snow along the forest trail.

Our friends should do the same, help us keep perspective. As we journey through life, we can easily become narrow-minded or fixated on one course of action (tunnel vision). Our friends are here to shed light on our situation, and help us see the broader picture. Some times we are too conservative. Our friends on the left help balance our opinions. Some times we swing too far to the left. Our more conservative friends help steer us back towards the right. We need a friend to speak words that help us gain perspective in life.

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.    Isaiah 30:21

Thirdly, the hiking ax is safety tool. If while hiking along a slippery path, I lose my footing and start sliding down a steep slope, I can use my ax to “self-arrest” and stop a dangerous, uncontrolled descent (and avoid serious injury).

One of the sharp obstacles along the trail - covered in snow.

One of the sharp hazards along the trail.

Likewise, friends can be a safety net for me if I find myself going down the wrong path. Other godly men who I have invited into my life through connection and relationship will hold me accountable. They check up on me to see if I am doing well. They are close enough to me to recognize when I have stumbled down a bad path. They hold me accountable to the right path. They reach out a hand to keep me from falling into a pit.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!      Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

We all need close friends in our lives. We are designed for relationship. Men who have fallen into addiction and/or are intimacy anorexics have done a good job of avoiding close relationships. However, God in His mercy and grace provided an antidote to help us along the trail to face the challenges of life: good friends – someone who will help us up when we fall.

How about you? Do you know someone who could use a good friend? What can you do to reach out to others and help them along this journey we call life?

About John Forrest