Geographically, I believe there are locations, wonders of the world, in which He grants us all even greater access to His majesty and mystery.
Preikestolen is one of those places.
My sister, Heidi, our friend, Chris Carey, and I made the trek up to Prekestolen, or the Pulpit, on Friday. From the side, it looks like a huge pulpit towering some 600 meters (nearly 2,000 feet) over the beautiful Lysefjord. The breathtaking attraction is a quick bus and ferry ride from downtown Stavanger.
This was my second trip up Preikestolen. I’d gone before with my entire family (we miss you Larry, Denise, Rachel and Christopher!) when we traveled to Norway in 2003 to bury my father’s ashes in his hometown of Egersund. But I didn’t remember it being quite so steep, especially at the beginning.
It may not be Mount Everest, but for those of us who aren’t used to tackling rugged, steep terrain, it might as well be.
I actually wondered if I’d be able to make it. Thankfully, I got through the first 10 minutes, which were definitely the most difficult.
It had been a few weeks since I’d had a really good workout and I was suddenly charged with the challenge of narrow, sharp “staircases” consisting of worn, weathered rocks. The scenery also inspired me, with the view becoming increasingly beautiful the higher I got.
There were slick spots and frightening drops down, if you dared to look. There were young children and older adults; some walked gingerly and cautiously while others shot ahead ambitiously and even aggressively. There were guard rails, but only here and there.
After an hour and 35 minutes, we reached the top of Preikestolen. Heidi, Chris and I reveled in our achievement. And our prize: a panoramic view that not even the most advanced camera could adequately capture. We, along with hundreds of other visitors, marveled at the fjord below and the mountains that stretched into the distance, framing nature’s portrait perfectly.
Some hikers, including children, sat at the edge, their legs dangling over the water 600 meters below. The thought of getting that close made me shudder and I was glad our children stayed in town with their dads and Mormor. We posed for pictures, a conservative two feet from the wide open cliff.
After snapping pictures and soaking in the scenery, we began our descent. I arrived at a plateau and realized I hadn’t taken time to fully thank God for the glorious gift I’d just received through the Prekestolen experience. I sat down on a rock near another overlook, more deeply absorbing the sights, not just with my eyes, but with my spirit. The moment filled me with strength, peace, serenity and joy.
I continued my descent, thinking of the running world’s saying, “Never waste a downhill.”
On this hike, however, I learned not to waste the uphill, either. After all, it was the uphill that led me to the Pulpit, one of the most magnificent places on earth, where God seemed to paint his own amazing grace into each stroke of the glistening fjord, the towering mountains and the sky that seems just within your reach.