Take ‘small steps, slow steps’

| May 17, 2013 | 0 Comments


Chaplain (Maj.) Chuck Williams
2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment
25th Combat Aviation Regiment
25th Infantry Division

In 2006, in the middle of my first deployment to Iraq, my wife Celia and I went to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, for our mid-tour rest and relaxation, or R&R.

We stayed at the new military hotel called “Edelweiss Lodge and Resort,” situated on the German-Austrian border.

Looking out the front door of our hotel was a grand view of the Alps, including one of Germany’s highest mountains, the Alpspitz, which rises to 8,622 feet.

After a few days of rest, I decided to climb the Alpspitz. The hike to the cable car station at 6,400 feet was a steep trail climb and rigorous enough. The remaining 2,200 feet to the summit was all rock face, with steel pegs placed into the rock trail for hikers to secure their footing, and a mounted steel cable for hikers to hold.

Considering the situation, I realized I had not anticipated the degree of difficulty that this hike would be. I was having problems with my breathing in the thin air.

As I stopped to rest and catch my breath, I noticed an elderly couple down the trail, steadily climbing. They seemed to be doing fine. Soon, they caught up to me.

I was surprised when the older man came over to me, put his hand on my shoulder, introduced himself as Otto, and said in broken English, while motioning me to take the lead, “small steps, slow steps.”

I started climbing the final 1,100 feet and kept saying to myself, “small steps, slow steps.”

Following Otto’s advice, I reached the summit without stopping again. I was enjoying the beautiful mountain vistas when the older couple finally joined me at the summit. I greeted them and thanked Otto for his “small step, slow step” advice.

As we visited, Otto explained how it was that he and his wife were hiking the Alpspitz. As he spoke, I noticed tears coming from his wife’s eyes. Even though she spoke no English, she knew what Otto was sharing with me.

Otto explained, “You see, my wife and I starting climbing this mountain only 10 years ago, and this is the only mountain we ever climb. Our only son was killed climbing this mountain 10 years ago. He and his climbing buddy were descending from their climb to the summit when a storm quickly fell on them. They were both struck by lightning and fell to their deaths.

“Small steps, slow steps is how we’ve had to live our lives ever since,” he continued, “and it is how we found the strength to finish climbing this mountain, each year, to remember our son.”

As Otto told the tragic story of losing his only son on that mountain, my boots were stained with tears that fell from my eyes.

I offered to pray with my new friends, and we said our goodbyes.

As I descended the mountain, I found the memorial plaque that the couple placed where their son and his friend had fallen. Although eight years have passed since that day on the Alpspitz, I hold in my heart the life lesson that Otto taught me: small steps, slow steps.

When difficult times seem to mark our days more than God’s blessing, we can walk these tough times with small steps, slow steps.

Even if life takes more from us than it gives, by taking small steps, slow steps, we can find God’s grace and strength.

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Footsteps in Faith, Standing Columns

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *