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Monday, September 28, 2009


This piece was scheduled to publish as a Friday Freelance at the end of this week. In deference to my friend Doug Spurling—(and because I have a class to teach that I need the time to prep)—it instead appears today.

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."
~ Henry David Thoreau


Friday's Part I ended with a literal cliff hanger. My dear friend Gwen Stewart and I sat at the edge of a mountain drop-off, in a stick-shift vehicle (my preference for mountain driving). I needed to back up toward the precipice, then pull forward just after the further backward roll necessary to engage the clutch and gas pedal on a steep upward slope.

Though the situation was not entirely safe (but hey, neither is life!), my concern about the drop paled next to my concern for terrified Gwen, who already exhibited alarming syptoms of distress. I might have preferred to evaluate the driving situation for the safest way to get around the corner, but taking the time and going through the motions of doing so would have put Gwen over a different edge.

I owned the requisite skill and experience for my move, so I made a spit-second decision to simply take action before Gwen might realize the potential danger. I must move quickly, but not so quickly that I stalled the vehicle and had to roll back even farther to try again. I spoke calm and distracting words to my dear friend while nonchalantly moving backward then curving forward. No more than three seconds elapsed from the moment I realized I had to back up to the moment we were again ascending the valley wall.

We were soon above timberline, where trees no longer offered Gwen an occasional respite by mitigating her view of terrain and height. She scarcely breathed (not good at the low-oxygen high altitude), drawing air just long enough to periodically ask how much farther.

Then we came face to face with an 8x8 emperor bull elk, which stood a car's length from the road. In a small meadow which temporarily distanced us from those cliffs, Gwen's fear was briefly allayed. On his own protected turf, the bull took no heed of us while we admired his majesty against the backdrop of regal mountains. After several moments of rest, we again braved the sheer drops which brought us to the end of the dirt road at the visitor's center.

The two of us exited the vehicle to take in the spectacular view. I held my friend's arm as we walked around the building. She took one glance toward the cliff and faltered. I put Gwen safely back in the truck to breathe whatever oxygen her lowlander lungs might find, then alone approached the edge, stepping much closer than I would have allowed her. Morning sun danced with intoxicating grandeur across the valley floor some 4,000 feet below me.

The next leg of our journey took us onto Trail Ridge Road, at 12,183' feet the highest continuous road on the continent. We traversed the path which straddles the ridge, taking in alternating glimpses of the Continental Divide's two domains. Gwen shook her head and asked how anyone might look upon what she saw and claim atheism.

The surreal view defied adjectives. Gwen's fear gave way to awe, and then tears. I'd known all along that her soul needed to not just see, but experience those mountains. Our friendship assured me that I could take her there, and push her to the limit of herself without going too far.

We both met God on that road. Gwen tells her own story of the journey to a chasm. Mine? I heard the Lord whisper, This is what I do for you.

The Lord knows there are experiences we need to grow—to more fully appreciate life. He understands our dread of what we consider insufferable. He knows the way is safe, despite the dangers, because He will not leave us on the path He's already traveled. He will speak reassuring words even as we tremble with terror. He will navigate with us what appears impassable.

He will push us to the limits of ourselves, but will not force us to go as far as we might if we pull back. He will reveal to us wonders which our minds have not conceived. We will be compelled to glorify Him by as much as we do take in.

He is the Friend Who will not permit us to remain unchanged by the journey.

I will not leave you orphans;
I will come to you...
you will know that I am in My Father,
and you in Me, and I in you...
Peace I leave with you,
My peace I give to you...
Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid.
~ John 14:18,20,27 (NKJV)

FOOTNOTE: Lest it appear that I paint myself a hero and Gwen a weakling, I shall this Friday tell you of the chasm from which Gwen deftly rescued me.

Contrasting points-of-view, questions and feedback are invited. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2009, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.


  1. I'm afraid just reading the story, glad I wasn't a passenger! Thankfully you were calm and skilled with a stick shift ;)
    I always notice the Lord is growing me by that uncomfortable stretching you speak of. Growing pains indeed. The prospective agony of life is only paled (in my mind) by focusing on eternity and the joy's of heaven with Christ as a full time resident. Really, that is my only calm on this precipice (and I don't know how to work the darn stick shift).

  2. I want to continue to grow in Him.

  3. This post is really speaking to my heart this morning...

  4. Oh Anne, you give such a wonderful and true account of our journey. I had no idea at the time how tricky that too-tight turn was--when you say you maneuvered in three seconds, you mean three seconds. :)

    I met God in those mountains. I'm forever grateful I survived my fears and made that trek. So grateful I listened to His leading in allowing me to trust you with the driving, and Him with my life.

    (And no worries about me coming off as a weakling. I'm by no means hesitant to share my weaknesses--in fact, that's the theme of my favorite Bible verse!)

    God bless you today, dear friend.

  5. This is so much fun to read about.

    "He will push us to the limits of ourselves." You are full of rich sentences! Thanks for sharing them.

    Gwen, his power is made perfect in?
    ~ Wendy

  6. This post remind me of my gratitude for you, Anne. You have a special gift, just as Gwen also has hers. Those unique qualities make me appreciate your friendship all the more!

  7. Anne & Gwen, friends, adventurers, mountaineers.

    I can see it now; Anne & Gwen’s Guide Service, Mountain View Extraordinaire...

    I started to copy a line I thought was good so I could comment on it. But, like the view I found myself taking it all in.

    My favorite line…

    “No more than three seconds elapsed from the moment I realized I had to back up to the moment we were again ascending the valley wall.”

    That hit me solid. Awesome.
    Like Gwen, I don’t realize the danger of the moment, I don’t realize all that needs to take place for me to climb higher. But with Jesus at the wheel I am assured even if I have to roll backward a bit, momentarily He will have me ascending once again.

    Keep climbing girls. You may not realize it but you’re helping others ascend as well.

    By the way. It was worth the wait, hanging out on the edge of a cliff all week-end - the view was spectacular.

  8. I'm so blessed that everyone who commented today is someone I can honestly call "Friend."

    T. Anne, I'm impatient for heaven, for sure. Jesus walking at my side keeps my feet earthbound, if not always my heart. Isn't the healing He offers while we wait precious?

    Denise, I so enjoy watching you grow.

    Russell, I heard Him speak as well.

    Wendy, it was fun to write about, more fun to live. Neither Gwen nor I shall ever forget it.

    Rosslyn, I'm honored to have met you at ACFW as the friend you'd already become.

    Doug, old friends are gold, new friends are silver, and it never hurts to have a friend who's a COPper. (Ex-cop in this case.) :D And doggone it, don't you hate those little rollbacks?

    Dearest Gwen, what can I say? Your love and trust and friendship are among my life's richest blessings. Thanks for everything you've shared with me. And that doesn't begin to cover it.


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