One Step

Just one more step. by Major Daniel Freeman

One step up, rest. One step up, rest. I was overloaded by a backpack weighing more than 65 pounds. And it was only the first day of a 25-day summer solo trip through the California Sierra Mountains. I stepped out of the car at the altitude of 7,000 feet. I would have to climb another 4,000 steps in nine miles that day and I could already feel the thin air straining my lungs. 

One step up, rest. One step up, rest. The steps up the mountain were built for giants, not mere men. Every step required lifting my leg two feet up in the air onto the next level then heaving myself up one more step. I was so exhausted, I wanted to lay down and sleep, or lay down and cry, but all I could do was take another step on the narrow trail on the side of a steep mountain.

The previous winter brought a lot of snow, so much snow that it took California out of its drought. These blessings for the big cities and farmers made for a rough time for hikers in the mountains, even in the middle of July. The thick hard snow at the higher elevations had a surface like a ball bearing on a stone floor. Creeks turned into rivers hard to cross. Mosquitos were at their finest. On top of that, a fuel bottle in my backpack leaked vapor into my water and food, making it very difficult to eat and drink. Yet, I had no choice but to keep going.  Just one more step.

Every evening I would use a devotional book and the author kept coming back to the 23rd Psalm and I was getting tired of it. It gets used so much to the neglect of other great stuff in the Bible. 

But the next day on the trail, that passage came into my thoughts, and these images started flashing through my mind. God gave me a safe place to sleep out in the woods. He helped me eat when I could not. He kept me from sliding down snow-covered cliff faces into the valley of death. He gave me shelter from the mosquitoes and kept the marmots from stealing my food. He found me still water for safe crossing and cool mountain water to refresh me when I was thirsty, tired and dirty. God was literally protecting me out in the wilderness.

I had understood the Bible intellectually and spiritually, but God made it very physical. I had never thought of the Word of God as being so physical. As I called out, “Oh God, You are my Shepherd,” images flashed through my mind: In the womb where He knitted me. The birth in a Salvation Army hospital to Salvationist parents. My youth in Canada. My teen years in Southern California. My degrees. My marriage. My three children. My Calling. Bremerton, WA. Cologne, Germany. Kalispell, Mt. Boise, ID. Alaska. Southern California. And Oakland Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC).

He showed me how He was always my shepherd and He has been forming my path, through the challenging and the good times.

As I climbed mountain pass after mountain pass, the view as I neared the top was breathtaking. The view at the summit revealed God’s glorious creation in a way no photo could capture. Gazing back at the trail, I thought about how there was no easy way up but to keep going. Climbing a mountain involves pain, sweat and some blood. No cable cars or helicopters were available to assist. It took only taking one more step.

And I thought back to the men who were called to climb the mountain to meet with God: Abraham, Moses and Elijah. It was no easy task for them to get to the top. At least I had a trail, they had nothing. But in faith, they moved those mountains, one step at a time. In faith, they followed God’s calling.

And I remembered the verse, Psalm 24:3-4, “Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.”

God showed me that there is no easy path to ascend the holy mountain. I realized that my journey in life will not be easy as I face the mountains before me. There will be those incredible moments as we stand on top of that peak, marveling at all that God has done. But there will be those other times when it will take sweat, pain and some blood as He changes me. And every time I look up the mountain and I call out to God, “I can’t do it!” He says, “I know Daniel. Just one more step.” 

Major Freeman, a Salvation Army officer for over 20 years, has served in appointments from Alaska to Southern California, from Kalispell, Montana to Cologne, Germany. He currently serves men recovering from their addictions in the Oakland, CA ARC.

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