Tim and I decided to take a day trip away from our resort in Playa del Carmen to explore some Mayan ruins. We had seen some smaller ones during an earlier trip, but we would be able to climb a large one, and since another major site had been closed to all climbing recently, we decided we should take the opportunity while we could.
After getting a tour around the main group of ruins, we were told we’d have to hike if we wanted to climb the taller ruin. We could rent bikes, but Tim and I decided to enjoy the walking time. By the time we made it to the ruin, we were already soaked in sweat.
It was a more difficult climb than we expected. It required endurance of several kinds. First was the physical endurance of climbing quite a distance. Next was the mental endurance of climbing nearly straight up with extremely narrow and uneven steps. There was one rope running up the middle of the steps for people who felt unsteady. The only issue was what to do when someone coming up with the rope and someone going down with the rope met somewhere along the way.
Once we made it to the top, there was another set of issues to endure. The first was the realization that we were definitely not in the United States anymore. No historical preservation society would allow anyone to get near such ancient ruins, and OSHA would never allow anyone to climb without a harness and all types of safety apparatus. Instead, we walked around on the narrow ledges at the top with no guard rails or limitations of where we could walk. There was loose gravel everywhere, and we were sure with one false move, we’d plummet to our deaths.
The next issue was to determine what the best approach to get down would be. There were no back-up plans. There were no ruins authorities monitoring everyone’s abilities and progress, willing to swoop us onto their backs to carry us to safety. There was no zipline available to take the fast route down. There were two choices: face forward and scoot down or face the ruin and go down backward. Backward seemed the logical choice to me.
The physical endurance on the way down was nothing. Keeping my nerves in check was a bit of a challenge. I’m not easily intimidated by physical challenges or heights, but as I carefully moved down the ruin, I remember singing to myself a modified Dory song from Nemo: “Just keep moving, just keep moving.”
Alas! I reached the bottom. I had originally thought I might try to climb multiple times. I was quite content with one.
Sometimes we anticipate and even invite a spiritual climb. We think we’re prepared for it and are ready to conquer it. We think we know enough about ourselves and our strengths and weaknesses that we quickly assess what we believe we can and can’t do and how well we’ll do it. We’re ready to endure, we think. However, when we’re faced with the uphill climb, we come face-to-face with the realization that we were only thinking of one aspect of the endurance it would take to face such a mountain. We didn’t take all factors into account, because we didn’t know all the factors until we started the climb. We found ourselves in need of more endurance than we anticipated. We get on the mountain, and the only option we have is endurance, because there are no easy ways down. We have to just keep moving, just keep moving.
We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. (Romans 5:3-4)
How are you responding with spiritual endurance in your life right now?