Mark and I grew up in the shadow of Stone Mountain.  We lived less than two miles from each other when we were younger (we went to the same elementary school and church for a time), but later different high schools and churches.  We ran in the same circles, though and had many mutual friends.  The mountain was our playground: we went there after school as children, with our parents on the weekends, with our schools and church groups, scouting troops, and later with our teenage friends.  We even had our engagement pictures taken at the mountain.

Climbing to the top of the mountain is a feat, even when we were younger and more agile.  Scout troops famously conquer the up, down, and around trail of 15 miles about once a year.  However, the hike to the top of the mountain is about 1.5 miles of mostly sloping granite, until you get near the top. The last 100 yards, or so, are steep and unyielding.  It’s the only place on the trail where what passes for a rail is installed; it’s just pipe in the ground, bent at a 45-degree angle, not particularly helpful, but not unwelcome either.

The hike, as I mentioned was challenging, but enjoyable.  The reward, though, far outweighs the challenge of the hike.  From the top of Stone Mountain, you may know, you can see for miles and miles (over 40); you can see downtown Atlanta; you can see lush vegetation, the lake, and even more granite outcroppings.  When you get to the top, all you want to do is sit, not from the hike, but just to take in the majesty of the 360-degree view.

When we were younger, a half-way point marked the way, a modest shelter without walls.  I liked to imagine that people had once lived there (in the shelter), maybe even Native Americans.  I had a vivid imagination and practiced suspension of disbelief, fully realizing the shelter was probably built in my lifetime.  Still, I liked to imagine wayfarers stopping for a meal and a rest.

Perhaps that is why I love the following poem so very much.  I can picture it so clearly in my mind’s eye.  It reminds me that the way with Christ, our lives on earth, is uphill, all the way.  We will have seasons of rest and seasons of great joy, still we are all taking the next step upward, whether we realize it or not.

Yet those steps are not lonely or miserable.  We have Christ.  He is our constant companion along the way.  And, we have each other.  The Christian journey is not one we can make in solitude, and paradoxically, no one can make it for us.  We need Christ.  We need each other. We must put one foot in front of the other. This journey, with Christ and with each other, is how I best imagine discipleship, working, walking, learning, and living together. And when we get to the top of the mountain, the end of this journey on earth, the view is magnificent.

Up-Hill (1830-1894)
 by Christina Rossetti

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
   Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
   From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
   A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
   You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
   Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
   They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
   Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
   Yea, beds for all who come.

How does this poem remind you of our call to discipleship? 

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