Of all the challenges I had anticipated with this post-college program, no amount of foresight could have mentally prepared me for a certain obstacle: hiking in high altitudes. I thought I was in decent shape before this program, considering I exercised regularly and enjoyed the occasional day hike. However, the deep south does not offer much in the way of mountains, and as an Alabama native, I only ever had about three hiking trails to choose from in a given city. I was excited to come to Salt Lake City with its abundance of trails and outdoor activities.
Excitement quickly gave way to exasperation within two days of my arrival; a five mile hike at 8,000 feet elevation squeezed the air out of my lungs, the water out of my skin, and the blind optimism out of my naïveté. As I sputtered my way up the mountain, I was vaguely aware that I was towards the back of the group, and was annoyed with the three leading the pack, who— did I imagine?— were singing their way to the top. Sputtering versus singing. Seems about right. I was just thankful to make it up without dry-heaving.
It’s been four months since that first backpacking trip. Looking back, I can see that it gave me a glimpse of an outdoorsy mindset that seems common in Salt Lake, wherein the grit and grime of the hike is part of what makes the whole thing so sweet. The taxing hike was a complement to the slow-motion act of setting up camp, after which I kicked back in my hammock and let my thoughts drift... The creek’s water where we refilled our Nalgenes was mercifully cold.
Pretty quickly I realized that I had not gone on the actual trail. I kept thinking that I would reach the top and find the real trail to hike back down. In my fear I remembered Psalm 123, and Psalm 130, and I was comforted that the Lord knew what was in store for me. I took solace in knowing that He knew whether I would find a trail at the top, or if I was going to fall and break a bone, or if I would have to be airlifted (this scenario seemed a real possibility). Even in my fear and regret, I clung to my God who is with me always. I didn’t know the outcome, but I put stock in a God who did.
Amazingly, I survived that “hike” (although my clothes didn’t, they were ripped to shreds), and have since been able to reap the benefits of an expanded trust in the Lord. The lesson I took from that hike, that I can rely on the Lord’s all-knowingness about my future, has proven applicable to many things in life. For example, I have no idea where I will be or what I will be doing next year, but I believe in a God who does. I trust that He will work on my behalf no matter what happens, and that His plans for my sanctification will persevere through it all.
SLF Class of 17-18
7 strangers who followed Jesus to the foothills of Utah. By His perfect orchestration He has walked us each to this place. They are some of the most special people I have ever had the privilege of knowing and I pray through this writing, you would learn even just a little of who these beautiful and wonderful children of God are, and how they've already affected my life.
Thank you for your authenticity and your deep desire to show Jesus's love to everyone you come in contact with. Thank you for your patience and care as each of us continue to fight through our brokenness and bow it before the Father. You listen, you encourage, and you serve us daily in the most humble of ways- often without a thank you in return. Thank you for your continual forgiveness and grace that you extend to us as we become sanctified as a group and in our own individual walks. I pray you know how appreciated you are by us, and by Jesus. I pray you know that you are not alone in this wilderness season and that He has you and He will KEEP you. And lastly, I pray that you know and can rest in comfort that you have 6 brothers and sisters by your side who love you, and will fight for you.
Thank you for your intentional soul that you continue to give so much of to others. Your desire to know the depths of each of us, and your willingness and excitement to love our imperfections. Thank you for your pursuit of understanding, and your empathy and passion you give to your fellow travelers. Your wit mixed with your caring heart are a beautiful combination and demonstration of The Lord's most perfect hand of creation. You make our group fuse together by the opening up and gathering nature that you have- you are glue. A strong and steady part of our fusion. I pray you know how DEEPLY cared for you are by each one of us, and that our group would not be the same without you in it.
Thank you for being who you are, unashamed and unabashedly, 100% of the time. Thank you for teaching me what a beautiful energy The Lord can bring into a human. I stand in awe of the strength you have shown this year. Thank you for not giving up on The Fellows, and on God's plans of Utah- despite how hard this transition may have gotten. Thank you for your curiosity, and willingness to ask the hard questions, it has made us all grow tremendously. Thank you for caring for me on the top of the mountain, and for walking with me in the valleys. You continue to love each one of us so well. Thank you for bringing a presence to our group that allows us to experience laughter that comes from belly-deep, and I pray you know just how needed that is in our fellowship and in my life.
Thank you for being such a faithful friend, sister and roommate to me. Thank you for seeing me at my worst and choosing to love me anyways, in all of my forms. Thank you for being slow to speak and quick to listen, always making each member of our group feel heard and understood. Thank you for being a once-in-a-lifetime kind of friend, and for continually reminding me of The goodness of Our Father. You are brave and you are strong and you have encouraged me tremendously. I pray you know that your voice is heard, and your thoughts are significant. You are wonderfully made, sweet Wa.
Thank you for your honesty and your pursuit of excellence that continues to challenge each one of us into our best forms. Thank you for your compassionate heart that you've so vulnerably shared and extended to each one of us. You stand firm in your beliefs, while opening your ears and eyes into how others see the world, and for that I am grateful. Thank you for your servant heart to always be there for another fellow in times of need. Thank you for opening your heart to what Jesus wants to do in you, and humbly submitting and letting Him shape you. I pray you know how comforting your presences is, and that The Lord is growing you and molding you into a strong and courageous man. It is evident.
Thank you for your strength. For your passion. For your heart that feels things in a way that is so beautiful and raw. You carry the burdens of your brothers and sisters, all while fighting your own battle- and I love you for that. You are strong in The Lord because you know your weaknesses and you allow Him to take them and grow you. Thank you for never shying away from an opportunity to make us feel loved in an intentional way. Thank you for not just walking alongside each of us during this season, but for continually speaking truth into our lives and situations. I pray you know how cherished you are by The Lord and by us, and that every part of you is welcome here.
Thank you for these people that you have blessed me with this year. To grow with, to cry with, to remember with. You are good to us, and you are doing a mighty work in our fellowship- in your perfect and beautiful timing. I praise you for your unfailing plans for each of us individually, and as a group. Thank you for allowing me the honor of seeing you work, with these people by my side.
SLF Class of 17-18
Salt Lake Fellows Collaborative