A few years ago, someone told me about a mountain bike trail that was supposed to be extremely challenging. The Asgad Ascent is off in the middle of the Judean Desert. I had seen the meandering path listed on my maps, and one day I decided to tackle it. I had been riding that morning with friends by the Dead Sea, and I figured I still had about six hours of daylight left, so why not?
My friends gave me skeptical looks when I announced that I would not be returning to Neve Daniel with them but would instead ride another 80 kilometers in the desert. But I am rather stubborn, so I took as much water as would fit in my backpack and set off alone with the map as my guide.
After a couple hours, I reached the ascent. It looked extremely difficult and the rapidly rising temperature was not going to make it easier. But, I have little common sense in these situations and (after checking in with friends on the cell) up I went.
The trail lived up to its billing. Soon I was marking the journey meter by meter. With so much sand and loose stone, I often slipped backwards and had to “give back” distance. But the whole time I could see the top of the mountain ahead of me. And as the time went by, it no longer looked so far away.
Finally I came up to the summit. I was exhausted but feeling a rush of adrenaline at the thought of conquering this trail. I put down a foot and spent a few minutes admiring the incredible view, seeing just how far I had been able to ride.
Then I noticed that the trail curved off to my right, out of sight. I prepared myself for a thrilling downhill ride and went around the corner.
Which is when I saw that rather than a descent, the climb simply continued around the corner. I was only halfway up the famed “Asgad Ascent.” I had been fooled by a “false peak.”
I was tired, demoralized, and worried about if I could make it home.
But I had no choice. I called on my cell to check in with friends and started riding up again. I was no longer excited by the challenge. All I wanted was to get back to my car and get home. I spent the next few hours tired, sore, thirsty, and anxious.
Eventually I made it back to the car and returned to Neve Daniel a few minutes before Shabbat.
Stella was cross for me for taking such a foolish risk, and I admitted that she was right. (Although I am still proud in a crazy way at the accomplishment.)
Stella is recovering from a very serious operation. She is doing great and determined to get her strength back. The whole ordeal was tough for all of us. Yet in my glorious naivety, I believed that as soon as she recovered from the operation, we could get our lives back. I was so focused on reaching the summit of the surgery, that I convinced myself that it would be a downhill coast from there.
But now I see that we are not done climbing. Getting to and through the op was indeed a huge accomplishment. Yet we are not at the real “peak” yet. Pathology reports indicate that we will have to continue with some chemo treatments. Although we have indeed climbed very far, we are not quite ready to declare victory and move on.
And so again, I find myself tired, demoralized, and worried.
But we have no choice but to keep going. We have no choice but to keep climbing until we reach the real top and can shout out loud that we did it. The way ahead will not be easy. We may have to wait a lot longer for the party. But unlike that day in the desert, I know that we are not alone.
Not by a long shot.
So we will continue the prayers, the chemo, the scans, and anything else we must do. Because no matter how steep the hill, eventually you get to the top.
And I can only imagine how good that will feel.