Last summer, while on a trip to the Middle East, the group I was with went to visit Petra. Named as one of the seven wonders of the world, Petra is truly an amazing place – a literal City of Stone. Huge stone structures are carved right into rock, and buildings of impressive stature date to before the time of Jesus.
Our group had about half a day to visit Petra. We entered through the Siq, a tunnel-like opening in the rock, and then together explored Petra’s wonders. As our group finished our time together, we still had a couple of hours before we would leave town. With that window of opportunity, I seized my chance to do some solitary exploring. And so, as the group headed back out of Petra, I headed for a mountain where, about a mile up, the Nabateans (Petra’s ancient architects) had carved “The Monastery.”
I started up the mountain, and the first half went pretty well. But eventually the incline and the terrain got to me. I slowed down. But I kept going. Even as the cumulative effect of hundreds upon hundreds of steps began to wear me down, I kept going.
And I am glad I did. For at the top was a stunning view. Of the Nabateans’ handiwork – but also of God’s. The view from the top, as they say, was pretty amazing.
For me, that’s a metaphor for life. It feels like a climb; often, a rough one. And some days, we might wonder if we can continue the journey. But we keep going. For even when the way is difficult, there is joy in the journey. And there is someone with us on the way.
When I reached the top of the mountain, I noticed that a number of other mountaintop visitors had made mini stone monuments – as if to mark the moment and the accomplishment. It reminds me of how the Israelites set up 12 stones as a monument when they reached the Promised Land – a journey far more difficult and challenging than mine. In both cases, though, the stones served as a reminder for any who came along of the accomplishment of the journey – and for the Israelites, of God’s faithfulness in the journey.
I joined my unknown travelers and set up a monument at the top of the mountain in Petra. And I join my fellow travelers in the journey of faith, and set up a monument in my life, that says: the way may be difficult; the road is long; and there are times I want to quit. But I continue. And each day becomes another monument to the grace of God, who brings me to each day, and brings me through each day.
If you ever get a chance, you need to visit Petra. And climb the mountain, and set up your own stone monument. But even more, I pray that you continue the journey in this life, regularly setting up monuments to the faithfulness of God. For it’s by His grace – and only by His grace – that we take each step. Until the day when we finally reach the top of the mountain.