From our hotel at the Dead Sea we drove a short ways north to Masada. If you are not familiar with the story of Masada, then you can surf over to Wikipedia, or Google it. If you have about 6 hours, rent the movie starring Peter O’Toole.

Here is the main thing I want to mention about Masada – not the most important thing, mind you, but a memorable experience for me. There are two ways up the mountain – cable car, or self-inflicted torture via a winding ancient trail. My feet voted for the cable car, but my pride cast the winning ballot. I joined 13 others from our group who loaded up with water and began hiking our way to Masada – 440 meters above the level of the Dead Sea. I’m not really good at converting meters to feet, but I figure we climbed about 98 miles.

Or so it felt. About a quarter of the way up I realized that it was a bad day to weigh 250 pounds. So in my delirious, near-dehydrated state I began to look for a shortcut. The path we followed was a series of switchbacks – a zigzagging path that led us up the east side. When I say there were a “series” of switchbacks, I’m saying there were nearly a million.

Or so it felt. About one third of the way up I saw a shortcut that I was sure would save me at least two minutes, and would catapult me to the front of our group. It wasn’t a race, but like I said – my pride was weighing in heavily on my decision-making today.

To describe my shortcut, begin by imagining the capital letter “A.” Ok, don’t imagine it – just look at the one on your screen. Now lay it on its side. A switchback is a sideways “A” without the short line that crosses the middle. My brilliant idea was that short line. One problem with that: the path went from steep to straight up a vertical cliff.

Or so it felt. By the time I reached the next switchback I was totally spent. And I was still way behind the people in the lead. Actually they weren’t just “people” – they were girls, and they were kickin’ my butt.

The rest of my trek was spent gulping water, gasping air, and swallowing pride.

I did make it. Eventually.

Here’s the moral of the journey: There are no shortcuts that can take the place of staying true to the course.

Spiritually, make your own applications. I’ll give you one to start: Perhaps you began your spiritual journey because someone said, “Hey, just pray this simple prayer.” Easy enough.

Or so you thought.