I have been reflecting back a lot this week on one of my many spiritual epiphanies I've had throughout my lifetime. Let me set the scene: Mt. Sinai, after a long, arduous hike in the middle of the night, after an even longer week traveling around Egypt suffering from Pharaoh's Curse. My body was at the breaking point. My emotions were at the breaking point. And I really had gone as far as I could possibly go. When I had convinced myself that Moses probably stopped where I did, I was satisfied that I had gone as far as Moses did and that was all I needed to be happy. Haha... did I mention that my mind was beyond the breaking point and I was slightly delirious? haha
After all of this, I was still grateful that I had made the journey, because as a sucker for beautiful things, the sunrise was truly magnificent. It's divine design was so absolute in my mind, because I just couldn't imagine anything so breathtaking and awe-inspiring to be happenstance.
During the devotional that we had, we talked a lot about "not coming down off the mountain"... basically relating how just because we were all on this wonderful spiritual high, it doesn't have to be-nor should it ever be-the peak of our spiritual progression in mortality. While I was in Jerusalem, my whole journey up Mt. Sinai and back became this huge personal allegory for me.
The climb down was possibly the hardest physical experience my body has ever had. Completely dehydrated and nothing
but a piece of bread to eat in the last 48 hours because I was so sick. Only 2 hours of sleep the night before. I had already hiked for 3 hours in the middle of the night. I was achey everywhere, and lucky me was hit with a dizzy spell on my way down. The climb down itself: we were told they were stairs... though a more accurate description would have been large boulders carefully stacked on top of each other with occasional stairs cut into the bedrock to fill in the gaps. No even stairs. No handrails. Nothing. But once I realized that it was already too late. The security guard with us was too far ahead down the other trail that I wouldn't be able to catch up, and therefore I had to stay on the path I chose. Immediately I began to learn a very personal analogy to repentance, and just exactly what it means to me, namely how grateful I am that in life I can ALWAYS turn back to follow the Ultimate Security Guard if you will. After about the first hour and a half of climbing down, my body just couldn't go anymore. And I still had at least 45 mins of climbing ahead of me at the pace I was going. My legs were shaking so badly, and I was so dizzy that my depth perception was way off, so I kept slipping. So I started telling myself if I could just make it down the next set of boulders to get out of people's way then I could rest. This worked for about 20 mins. By this time, I had let every person behind me pass, and they were out of sight. My mind and body were both officially at the end of their limit. They couldn't go any further. So I just leaned up against the wall and cried. I was too sick. Too tired. And too out-of-shape for that matter. haha I just cried. And prayed. I prayed to make it one more step, and somehow have it all be over. I prayed to will the pain away. I prayed for my dad to be by my side so I didn't have to feel so alone. And after a few moments, I was somehow moving again. I was grateful for sunglasses to hide my tears as someone else had come up behind me by this time. I let them pass and then I just started talking to my dad, perhaps somewhat audibly seeing as how I was delirious. And as I kept telling him about everything I had seen and learned in my 3 weeks of Israel and Egypt so far, I imagined how excited he would be for me, and how jealous he would be for himself. I gave myself a pep talk as if it were him speaking to me. And by the time I was done reviewing all of these things in my mind, I could see the end of the climbing. And it was close. I was so happy. And even though I was in more pain than ever, it almost didn't matter. Because now all I could think about was how good it would feel to sit down on the bus (which is something I NEVER thought I would look forward to! haha). And when I did finally climb on that bus, dripping in sweat, as white as a ghost, disheveled hair, dirt all over, I was greeted with a "You did it!! How was it?!" To which I replied, "I did it. I'm here. And in the end, that's all that matters."
So often I have looked back on what at the time felt like a hellish experience, and I have gained A LOT of personal insight. And seeing as how I'm not going to give all of my insights I probably went into too much detail, but this is like my journal so it's fine, right?
1. Repentance is always a possibility in mortality. I am so grateful that I never have to feel trapped into taking the long, miserable path through life!
2. Just as physically climbing down Mt. Sinai was the most difficult part, coming home from Jerusalem has been the most difficult part of my spiritual journey. This is where the true test lies, and even if I am the last one on the bus to my final eternal destination of the Celestial Kingdom, as long as I'm on that bus and make it to where I've been trying to go that is all that matters. And the only way to do that is by putting one foot in front of the other. One day at a time. I really need to be diligent about setting goals and striving to reach them. If I am not progressing, then I am digressing. There is no such thing as a spiritual stand-still. And if on that bus to the Celestial Kingdom someone asks we "How was it?" in reference to my life, I want to be able to say with a smile on my face, "I did it. I'm here. And in the end, that's all that matters."
3. Some days the only way we make it through is by talking with our Heavenly Father, and by really believing that He answers prayers. And just as I started out my journey with a prayer of gratitude for the opportunity ahead of me, it ended that day with a prayer of gratitude for the experience behind me. Expressing my gratitude was one of the only ways I was able to find joy in the journey that difficult morning, but it worked. It always does.
4. God really does answer prayers-from the most trivial to the seemingly impossible. Now I don't know if my dad really was there walking by my side, though I would sure like to think so. But by just assuming that he would be and acting as if he was, I not only felt my bond with him grow as I shared these experiences with him, but it occupied my mind enough so that I could make it to the bottom. And those are both things that I so desperately needed that day. I REALLY needed to make it to the bottom. But as it was my 22nd birthday, and I was 7000 miles from home and unable to talk to any family members while in Egypt, my dad was really the only one that I could share my birthday with. And seeing as how my dad can be very persuasive, I wouldn't doubt that he really was there with me.
5. I thought the climb up was where my body was going to draw the line, and then I somehow managed to get back down on an even more difficult path. And after that I managed to stand in line at the border crossing to get back into Israel for 4 hours without injuring anyone. How could it be that I thought I had reached my limit at 5am, and then I made it to 2am the next day when I finally crawled into my bed in Jerusalem? Reflecting back on this entire 24 hours that I'll remember as the... most ridiculous birthday ever... has taught me a lot about potential. I'm talking about catching a glimpse of just how much greater God's plan for me is than any plan I could ever come up with for myself. This, compounded by chronic indecisiveness, is one of the major reasons why I'm having such a hard time coming up with a life plan. I don't want to decide on something unattainable, like my previous plan of "World Peace" haha. And yet, I know that if it were God's will, I really could be used by Him to achieve world peace. I wish the glimpse of my potential had been a little less fuzzy, in slow motion and subtitles turned on. But alas, I suppose that's what personal revelation and my patriarchal blessing are for.
Even though I lived through all of the details, I'm still perplexed as to how I magically ended up in Egypt on the top of Mt. Sinai to watch the sunrise on my 22nd Birthday. It certainly was not any small feat for all of those details to be worked out. But God is good. I survived Sinai. Not only physically, but mentally and spiritually. And not only survived but thrived. And now I can also say that I've survived and thrived on the many other mountains that have been placed in my path since: Mt. Nebo, Mt. Moriah, Mt. Carmel, Mt. of Olives, Mt. of Beatitudes, and the Mt. of Transfiguration to name a few. Next stop: Y Mountain-Utah Valley and the Provo Temple-the Mountain of the House of the Lord. Hopefully I'll find that I never come down off these mountains and all of the wonderful things I've learned.