Trust your mule

Columnist shares experience of riding mules to the bottom of Grand Canyon

Posted: Sunday, January 24, 2010

We took turns having our "freak-outs." Kristin had hers the night before our descent. I waited until morning. It was moments before the wranglers arrived, when, with tears in my eyes, I looked at my friend and said, "You can't make me do this!"

Why the freak-outs? Why the apprehension and tears? My friend and I were about to embark on an experience we will never forget ... riding mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Not only had we never ridden mules, we'd never ridden mules on a narrow trail with steep drop offs. We were told mules are sure-footed. There has never been a fatality off the back of a mule in the Grand Canyon. Yet, questions flooded my brain. Will my mule be sure-footed? Am I going to plummet to my death? What am I doing here?

As my urge to run from the corral grew, wranglers and mules arrived. In the blink of an eye, I was on the back of a mule named Teddy, descending a winding trail, with a piece of sage wrangler advice in my heart. Trust your mule.

In other words ... have faith.

Faith. Unquestioning belief. Complete trust. Going with the flow with hope things are going to be ok. It seemed so simple. Have faith in my mule. Why didn't I think of it?

Because faith isn't easy.

I think of faith as a pilot light in my soul. Burning in the everyday course of my life, it keeps me faithful in loved ones, myself, and most importantly, in God. But there are inevitable times when my faith is tested and the light is dimmed. When by either choice or circumstance, I'm forced out of my comfort zone and left to question if things are going to be ok.

My faith was tested in the saddle. Trust my mule? Could I do it? Taking the trail one switchback at a time, inspired by the beauty of my surroundings, I learned the answer.

I let Teddy take me along the rocky and sometimes icy trail around corners where each view was more spectacular than the last, through narrow box canyon walls and even along the rushing Colorado River. During a few fleeting moments of terror, I clung to the saddle horn with two hands. Most of the time I held the reins loosely with one hand. The entire time I trusted my mule.

The experience made me realize having my faith tested is not a bad thing (even when it feels like a bad thing). Facing scary stuff in life is empowering. There's nothing like a test of faith to help you discover what you are truly capable of doing.

My faith was dim that morning at the Grand Canyon, but the light didn't go out. It was renewed through courage I didn't know I had. Facing my fears turned into the adventure of a lifetime.

Even when the light of faith seems dim, I encourage you (and me) to keep moving forward. Saddle up. Let your faith be tested. And don't forget to trust your mule.

• Becky Corson is a member of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

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