Holism in the Grand Canyon (Part 2)

 We did it!

21 miles… 13 hours… and a million reasons to be thankful for the Lord’s provision and creation! What a great adventure to share with my wife.

As I shared in my last post (Part 1), I didn’t hike the Grand Canyon, rim-to-rim in one day, for myself. I didn’t seek out this experience to check it off my “bucket list” or as some act of denial to convince myself that I am young and physically able. I will admit that at first I agreed to do the hike in order to support my wife in her desire to take on this challenge. But as we prepared and trained for the big day, it became apparent that God had other plans.

Last week, I pondered about a holistically healthy life being best expressed through acts of compassion. This thought was confirmed through the collective community of individuals I hiked with. You see… in the weeks leading up to the hike, not once did I question whether I could physically conquer the trail. But all that changed when, by an odd occurrence of events, I sprained my foot just days before we were to leave for the South Rim. Oh the drama! I treated my wound as best I could with limited time.

The night before, our group gathered together for one last pep talk filled with scripture, motivation and prayer. Under the canopy of a dazzling, starry night, the question was asked of us, “Did anyone come here just to be the same person once you reach the other side?” For me, that started into motion a flood of thoughts and emotions about what God wanted to teach me. I understood that he brought me to this place of vulnerability, so that I might experience compassion. I’ve always been fond of the concept that challenging ourselves is important for developing our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Much like the process muscles go through, needing to be broken down in order to become stronger. Challenges are catalytic components toward building holistic health. But, I looked into the dark abyss that next morning (we started before dawn) and I couldn’t help but be filled with doubt. Every few seconds I’d look back at the bus and wonder if I should just throw in the towel and give up before I even started.

Alas, we began our descent. And with it the beginning of an adventure that I quickly identified as more spiritual than physical. Only a handful were aware of my ailment at the start, but word traveled and soon I had many people periodically checking in on me and offering assistance. As many might expect… pride was in full effect, as I shrugged off helpful gestures. But grace and compassion has an incredible effect that can erode the harshest of pride. You know… like the Colorado River does to the Colorado Plateau!

As I limped one foot in front of the other, hour after hour, those bits of encouragement and assurance began to open my eyes to exactly that which I contemplated before the hike. This adventure wasn’t only going to be about physical endurance. It was always going to be about a holistic response to a challenge. It’s been said by endurance athletes that a marathon is just as much a psychological feat as it is a physical one. But then there is the added component of community. Of people in relationship, moving forward together. Step by step. Hour by hour. We all understood that each of us benefit from each others success.

Therefore compassion was essential.

When one person started to lag, we would rally around them and start up conversation. We would share water and snacks. And we would ALWAYS encourage.

This seemed to fit into the idea that a holistically healthy life is best expressed through a spirit of compassion. Understanding that life is at its best when we meet our challenges with both physical and spiritual attention. And even more so when done in community. What I experienced in the depths of the Grand Canyon was a lovely picture of how we ought to live. A lifestyle that brings joy to the Lord through manifestations of His grace and compassion for us. And ultimately, a model by which we should interact with ALL people around the world.

So there you have it. My hike across the Grand Canyon taught me many things and challenged me in every way. And I hope that those reading are able to find similar challenges that lead us towards this notion that a holistically healthy life is best reflected through acts of compassion.

Feel free to check out an UNOFFICIAL recap and ‘thank you’ video of my hike!

VIDEO: Sunrise on the North Rim

About David Curtis

David is passionate about two things: Walking with the poor, and the New England Patriots. His interest in understanding and advocating for the poor began while spending the summer in rural South Africa, where he worked alongside a fellow 19 year old at an orphanage. The juxtaposition of life as a privileged American, with that of a determined yet struggling friend and peer from the Global South, began the trajectory of a calling to walk with the poor. Since then he has spent time working in South Africa, Indonesia and Haiti. David graduated from Calvin College as a Social Studies Teacher, combining a passion to teach with that of learning. A potent combination that strives to bring "Mutual Transformation" to the world. Go Pats!

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