by Stephanie Strom
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.
My sweet husband took me to the Old Mill District of Bend Oregon for our anniversary this past June. The weather was beautiful, the shops enticing, and the food indulgent… just as it should be. We walked the paths hand in hand like young lovers would. We sat hip to hip on a grassy knoll eating our Ben and Jerry’s ice cream as we watched the paddle boarders drift by on the lazy Deschutes River. It was blissful!
The evening and the morning was the first day.
We arose early the next morning and drove out of Blissful-ville, heading northeast to Smith Rock. I am sad to admit that though I have lived in Oregon most of my life, I had never seen the deep river canyons or the soaring cliffs that make your hair stand on end. This was going to be an adventure! Even from the parking lot, it was breathtaking!
From the welcome center, we wound our way down a steep path to the canyon basin, crossed the Crooked River by way of the foot bridge, and stood gaping at a square white sign that read: Misery Ridge Trail.
A painted arrow showed us the way to go. It pointed not to the right or to the left, but straight up in the air! I raised my eyes. Before me was what I am sure are the most rugged, uneven, barbaric stairs on the planet earth. The one mile trail would rise 1000 feet in elevation before cresting the top. I looked over at my sweet husband who only smiled, patted my hand, and started the climb, intending me to follow.
Along the way, we stopped and sat on rocks that jetted out over the canyon. The river had shrunk to a watery line. The vehicles and people were but a pinprick. The birds flew below our feet.
At the summit, I nearly kissed the ground in relief! Another sign beckoned our attention: Monkey Face, this way!
We took the winding trail down and around the bend and watched as rock climbers’ defied gravity and sanity as they hung their bodies in faith on a rope that alone held the power of their life or death. Every anchor they placed in the rock was crucial. Every place they set their foot and positioned their hands served a purpose.
For the first on our journey, the path leveled out flat. The Crooked River moved slowly and glistened like diamonds in the sun. A deer and her young fawn grazed in the meadow on the opposite side of the still water. I had never seen a fawn that young so close. Majestic bald eagles glided over us. Trees lent their shade and the air was cooler than the hot and rocky desert crags. We breathed deeply and held our silence, careful not to disturb God’s creation.
… That is until we met up with a group of elderly women, chattering like clucking hens. They were loud and lively, and their laughter echoed off the rocks. However, the sound of rattling in the tall grass just off the walking path transformed their joy to terror and sent the clucking hens’ feathers flying as they squealed and stomped the ground. It was… almost comical.
My husband took my hand as we briskly, yet calmly, passed our slithering enemy as he continued to fiercely rattle his threats at us. I felt no fear with my husband at my right side.
At the end of a long, exhausting day, though I was sweaty and hot, and my bad knees protested and my stomach growled, I didn’t regret a minute of it! Later we returned to Old Mill once more and ate our ice cream, but all we could talk about was Misery Ridge and our rewarding day at Smith Rock.
I smiled when the Lord reminded me of this adventure I had enjoyed with my strong, protective, determined husband.
As believers, we do enjoy Blissful-ville and ice cream and holding hands on smooth sidewalks. And surely the Lord delights to bless us with those times with Him.
But this I also know is true: just as my husband was excited to share an incredible experience with me, so too does my Bridegroom.
The Lord knows a secret: Unexpected blessings are rewarded to us after the hard days that “Misery Ridge” brings. This thing called “Our Walks” progresses down an ever shifting terrain. Sometimes there are steep and difficult climbs. Along the way, the Lord takes time to stop and sit with us and take in the view. In His love and grace, He points down into the valley to encourage us by showing us how far we have come with Him. Sometimes He straps us to Himself, the Immovable Rock, so that we can learn to put the full weight of our faith in the Anchor of our souls and ascend to great heights. Other times, He leads us by still waters and invites us to drink deeply of his grace and graze in His meadow. Along the path, the enemy may threaten to strike our heels to cripple our walk. He may rattle and hiss, but there is no damning danger that can befall us with our Savior at our side.
How many thrilling adventures do we forfeit
by staying in Blissful-ville?
…We cannot fear the hard or unknown road.
With your gaze fixed on your Bridegroom, your Rock and Protector, the Designer of adventures and the Creator of all good things, you can breathe the air and walk the pathways with surety and peace.
And take a chance on Misery Ridge.
It’s an adventure of great worth!