I went hiking at Stone Mountain over fall break last weekend. Since it was my first time there, I didn’t realize there was a better way to navigate the trail aside from going down multiple flights of stairs only to have to come back up. (Yes, there were stairs outside… what the heck?!). There was a fire on the trail a few weeks ago, and so I wasn’t able to do the “Stone Mountain Loop Trail,” which would have only required that I go down the stairs, and not needing to come right back up them.  That being what it was, I found it much more enjoyable going down the multiple flights, snapping a picture of a leaf here, stopping to look at a waterfall there, and at last, reaching the bottom, where I was able to look up at the 200-foot waterfall that stood before me.  A beautiful sight to behold, I continued walking on flat ground (for just a short while) to follow the stream that bubbled and rushed in and out of the trees alongside the trail itself.  Although I enjoyed this sight and the beautiful images I was able to steal away for myself, I couldn’t help but thinking the whole time, “I have to go up those darn stairs…”

I finally sucked it up, gathered my camera and my water bottle, and headed toward the endless staircase with determination.  Unfortunately, my fear of being dreadfully out of breath and unwilling to take one more step was made a reality, and I was surpassed by an elderly couple who encouraged me to keep going.  I debated going to the summit after this terribly strenuous feat of stairs, and even turned down the trail to return to my car, but I thought to myself, “Carly, you came here to see the summit. Don’t quit now.”

Isn’t this how div school (or just life in general) can be sometimes?  The venture is nice for a while; we’re able to witness some beautiful things—and then we experience something incredibly difficult and challenging that makes us want to quit halfway through because we’re just too tired.  As a second-year graduate student who has miles to go before she reaches her “summit,”  I’ve wanted to quit so many times.  The class load is too overwhelming.  Trying to balance 5 jobs and an internship on top of school is just too much to handle.  My emotional capacity to be the woman God’s called me to be has reached its maximum.  My mental oxygen tank is on empty.  And yet, I came here to see the summit.  I can’t quit now. And neither should you.

Paul writes in Rom 5:3–4, “But we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”  Now I see these staircases not as quite literally an uphill battle filled with suffering, but as a means of developing endurance, character, and hope.  There is hope, beloved, in the work we’re doing here and outside of this place.  So I encourage us all, whenever we feel like we’re facing an impossible staircase, or we’ve made it to the top and just want to go back to the car, remind yourself of this: You came here to see the summit. Don’t quit now.