I am a very surefooted person. I may not have ever realized this about myself had it not been for my Peruvian upbringing and the fact that I had access to mountains and rivers and oceans my whole life.
I can remember wading barefoot across streams in the Andes Mountains and hopping from rock to slippery rock just to prove to myself that I could do it.
I remember as a little girl climbing a “mountain” in my best friend’s backyard. We would scamper up the side of it, climb over the boundary wall of their property, and keep on going until we were at the peak. Then we’d run along the ridge, feeling the wind in our hair and seeing for miles in every direction. It was thrilling.
I remember going to the Pacific Ocean and climbing all over the rock cliffs with my brother as we would try to catch crabs.
So by the time I got to go on a real mountain trek through the Andes Mountains while I was on break from college, I had literally no concerns about falling off the side of a mountain or tumbling into a ravine.
This trek was like a mission trip, but we had to hike for 11 days through the mountains of Peru, tent camping and distributing Bibles freshly translated into their regional Quechuan dialect. It was grueling. Sometimes we would be trekking for 10 hours in a day and by the time we arrived to set up camp at night, it was all we could do to keep our eyes open. But the next morning, we would get to wake up to this.
It is one of those experiences that I would like to go back and live all over again. From the people we met and shared the gospel with, to the breathtaking beauty of my majestic Andes, it was an unforgettable trip.
One day, we were trekking, and a college aged girl who had come on a trek for the first time was walking a few paces behind me. She was not super coordinated and seemed to be struggling. It is very easy to get dehydrated at high altitudes, and when you do, you can become very lightheaded and dizzy. That is not a good combination when you are walking on a 7 inch wide trail at some points on the side of a mountain.
As I walked, there were places along the trail that were solid dirt, like a little path. There were other places that were mostly gravel, and parts of it were larger stone, loosely imbedded in the dirt. I would take a quick look ahead and judge where to step next while keeping up a decent pace. At this point in the day, we just wanted to hurry up and get to camp. We were exhausted.
I would see a rock and judge if it could bear my weight or if it would bear my weight for just a second before I used momentum to hop to the next more sturdy step. That was not a problem for me. I had been climbing up and down these hills and others like them my whole life. Trekking was as easy as breathing for me. What became a problem was the girl behind me.
She was not surefooted. She had not done this before. And every place I put my foot, she was watching and stepping in those exact spots. So if I lightly hopped on a rock and kept right on into my next step, putting almost no weight on that stone, she was flat out stepping down hard on the stone, and it would come dislodged, causing her to nearly fall down the side of the mountain.
It became very clear to me that if we were both going to make it, I had to be very careful where I stepped. Because she was literally watching my feet and stepping exactly where I stepped. I realized that there were places where I could easily step with no problem that would send her tumbling down the mountainside.
As I slowed down and walked with her down that mountain, carefully weighing my every step for her sake, it hit me…this is Christian liberty. I had every right to go bounding down that mountain into camp like a gazelle. But I needed to lay it down and walk extra carefully for her… because of love. Because I don’t want her to fall and get hurt.
There are so many things that we as believers have every right to do. We could do them in a heartbeat and have no problem. And we have liberty to do them. But sometimes we lay down a bit of our liberty out of love. Because it’s not just about us. It’s about the person coming after us whose life we value more dearly than even our right to step wherever we choose.
“But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.” I Corinthians 8:9