How do you know you are making progress when you are climbing a mountain? The trail may be full of twists and turns so that it isn't always easy to judge where you are by looking ahead or behind. Feet on a trail at the bottom of a mountain look just the same as feet on the trail at the top. So how do you know you are getting where you want to go and are not just walking in circles?
You can always check out the view.
The trail may get a lot of attention on a hiking trek to be sure one is stepping safely, firmly, and moving in a good direction. But for experienced hikers, the trail is rarely the focalpoint of the ascent. The real prize is in the view - the higher, farther, deeper look at the vastness and beauty of creation.
I twice hiked down from the south rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The first trip down, I must say, was all about my feet. After the initial thrill of hiking wore off, I wondered, "How many more steps will it take to get me where I am going?" We descended 10 miles down the Havasupi Trail to a camping ground near the Havasu Falls. Next, we hiked 20 miles round trip, passing Mooney and Beaver falls on our way out to, and back from, the Colorado River.
I wouldn't have traded for anything that moment of seeing the magnesium-filled turquoise water of the Havasu creek as it swirled into the muddy brown of the Colorado. And yet, although the scenery was breathtaking, I gave most of my attention to thinking about the effort it had taken to descend the Canyon and reach the river, as well as to the effort it would soon require of me to hike back out.
On the final day, making my way back up the Havasupai Trail, I ran into some serious trouble with my feet and legs. It seemed like they had had about enough. I wasn't sure how far I had come; I wasn't sure how far I had yet to go to reach the rim of the canyon; but I was pretty sure I was stuck right there on the trail, and that it would soon be getting dark.
Desperate and fearful, I started to pray. Then I was inspired to sing hymns to myself. I sang every hymn I could remember - hymns of comfort, hymns of praise, hymns recounting the divine presence, and strength, and beauty of God. Soon, I resumed the hike, moving along while quietly singing hymns.
Actually, the trail looked pretty much the same, and my feet and legs still felt the tremendous effort of the climb, but I no longer looked ahead or behind me to determine my progress. I also stopped consulting my legs and feet to see how they were doing. Instead, I looked around me for evidence of the beauty and power and strength of God and His creation that were described in the hymns I sang.
And as I did, the scene began to change. Now, I could see my progress. I saw treetops instead of trunks, and instead of looking up the canyon walls to judge the distance yet to go, I looked out into the canyon. I knew I was progressing by my gratitude for the view.
Now, unafraid that I couldn't or wouldn't finish the climb, I spent the rest of the hike watching God's glorious might and majesty reveal itself to me at every turn, until I finally reached the top of the trail as the sun was beginning to set.
Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who discovered Christian Science, wrote, "The footsteps of thought, as they pass from the sensual side of existence to the reality and Soul of all things, are slow, portending a long night to the traveller; but the guardians of the gloom are the angels of His presence, that impart grandeur to the intellectual wrestling and collisions with old-time faiths, as we drift into more spiritual latitudes." (The People's Idea of God - It's Effect on Health and Christianity, 1)
If you ever find yourself praying, and wondering if your prayers are getting you anywhere, it can help to pause to look away from the problem, to look out for the spiritual evidence of what God, divine Good, is doing right where you are.
Measuring progress by these spiritual views may not shorten the trail, and every step of effort will likely still be yours to make, but you will not be fooled into believing you are stuck, or possibly moving backwards. Divine Good is revealing itself in all its glory at every step and graciously moving you forward.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper:
the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:
he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no