Strong Shoulders

Horsetooth Rock at sunrise

Earlier this week, I proudly puffed out my chest and told you about my singular achievement of climbing the famed “Horsetooth Rock” here in Fort Collins, CO. It took me about two hours of climbing to reach the top… 30 minutes of sitting down and basking in the sun… and one-and-a-half hours to get back down.

Although Horsetooth is considerably smaller than any of the 58 “fourteeners” in this state, it was still a challenge for my nearly 70-year-old legs and lungs. I was tempted at several points to stop, look around, and say, “OK… that’s close enough. Time to head back down.”

But I didn’t!

Yay me! Right?

But here is the thing; at just about every step along the way, I was reminded that I did not accomplish this legendary feat all on my own. First of all, the fact that I was following a TRAIL meant that someone else had gone before me and blazed that trail. 

Those unseen saints also thoughtfully installed some strategically placed BENCHES along the way… benches I never passed by.

Then, at a couple of places along the way, the trail became very steep. And wonder of wonders, those same unseen ancestors were compassionate enough to install wooden steps (shown here) and carve footholds in the sheer granite face. 

But guess what else? Not all my aides-de-camp on this trip were invisible! My sails also received an extra puff of wind from a few flesh and blood people I met along the way. There was the older gentleman who was coming back DOWN from the top just as I was getting started. 

Just the sight of him spryly descending helped lighten my load. 

Then there was that young couple (he: shirtless. She: in sneakers. They: not even carrying water) who, when I called out, “You two make it look too easy!” replied with, “Oh no… we’re struggling.” 

(Yeah… right.)

Isn’t that true in life, too? Don’t any of us who make some kind of noteworthy notch in our belts almost ALWAYS stand on the shoulders of others in order to do so? 

I can’t even begin to count the sets of shoulders I have climbed on to be where I am today. On my parents’ shoulders I learned about how a couple is called to submerge THEIR wants and needs below the wants and needs of their children… time and time again.

On my father’s shoulders I learned about the courage it took to make a radical professional restart and follow a higher calling.

My mother’s shoulders gave me the vantage point to see the importance of connecting with the world outside my town’s, my state’s, my nation’s borders. She also showed me what it meant to love the written word.

My junior high friend Kirk’s shoulders were just high enough to help me see that it is possible to take your faith in Christ seriously and not be a complete social pariah. 

And so on and so on… ad infinitum.

Even though the story of the children of Israel is a story filled with struggle, captivity, violence, disobedience, and despair, there was always a faithful remnant who remembered and celebrated God’s promise. In their darkest moments of exile, they were able to look back and see the shoulders of faith they stood on and take solace. 

That is what allowed David to bow his head and write this psalm: “Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation, we will proclaim your praise.” (Psalm 79:13, NRSV).

Take a moment and think about all the different sets of shoulders YOU stand on today. Name them by name. Make a list of how they helped you. Offer a silent prayer of thanks for their sacrifice…

… and then go out and offer your shoulders to someone else.

Abundant blessings;

1 Response to “Strong Shoulders”

  1. August 29, 2021 at 2:15 am

    Too many to name…and I am ever so grateful.

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