Society encourages us to acquire things, purchase services, and support policies that make our lives easier. Many of us eagerly anticipate the day when our cars will drive us, when AI will write our reports, and our fridges will automatically order groceries. If we dedicate so many resources to making our lives easier, then why do we pursue hard things? For many of our neighbors, the idea of summiting fourteeners, living on Mountain House meals for a week in the backcountry, or running rapids in a kayak may be crazy. But we aren’t part of F5 because we seek a comfortable existence. We recognize that most Americans “are living progressively sheltered, sterile, temperature-controlled, overfed, under-challenged, safety-netted lives” (Michael Easter, The Comfort Crisis).
I do not mean to imply that the comforts and technologies of modern society are all bad. Quite the contrary, I am very happy that I do not need to light a candle to find my way to the outhouse in the middle of the night. However, we must be wary of becoming too comfortable. We seek challenges because we recognize that fortitude can only be developed by pushing outside of our comfort zones. “We glory in our suffering because we know that suffering produces fortitude; fortitude, character; and character, faith.” (Romans 5:4). And when that suffering is experienced communally with fellow believers, how deep are the bonds that develop? When you place your life in the hands of another as they haul you out of a canyon, you can’t help but trust them more.
The experience of regional F5 events is very different in certain aspects from the main events. In contrast to the hundreds of people at the main events, there were thirteen of us at Escalante. This meant we had time to talk with everyone and learn more than just their name. We were able to share feasts at camp and trail lunches. (For future reference, Sireen knows how to make pizza on a propane camp stove and Kevin has the best trail snacks.)
In Escalante, we found beautiful country somewhere between Hell’s Backbone and the Devil’s Garden. Hopefully, the pictures capture a little of the splendor we were able to witness. But more than beautiful views, we found opportunities to build faith, fellowship, and fortitude, while having fun in the midst of – perhaps, because of – adversity and challenge. I encourage you to seek out opportunities to suffer a little with others and accept it joyfully. Misery may love company, but good company is made with a little misery.