Eyes on the Hilltop by Kat Heckenbach
There must have been thousands of us. I could barely see the top of the hill from where we stood. It loomed so far away. How were we all going to make it up that narrow path?
I was shoved from side to side, elbows poking into me. Groaning from hot and tired people echoed from everywhere. The sun baked my clothing and the heat soaked straight through to my skin.
A voice called from the top of the hill.
I recognized it, but couldn’t quite place from where. I only knew that the source of the voice was my goal, as was everyone else’s. I could tell by the frenzied faces around me the voice stirred in them the same thirst it stirred in me. A thirst that could only be quenched by reaching the top of the hill, the source of the calling.
I strained to focus on the voice and found myself farther forward in the crowd. It felt wonderful—as though someone had allowed me a dribble of water after days in the desert. It warmed me and settled the beating of my heart. My goal seemed suddenly attainable. My feet carried me on, but I soon became distracted by a woman lying on the ground, nearly getting trampled.
She cried out, “I’ve lost him! Where is the voice? I can’t hear it anymore!”
“Quiet!” someone shouted, “neither can we, and you’re not helping with all your carrying on.”
The woman burst into tears. I reached out my hand.
“Here, let me help you,” I said. She smiled gratefully at me, clasped my hand, and pulled herself up.
“Thank you, my boy. I can’t find my way. Can you help me?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know the way either. I’m only following...” The words caught in my throat and I frowned. Following what? I still didn’t know the source; only the drive that pushed me on.
“Me, too,” she said, and released my hand. “Me, too…’’ She drifted off into the crowd.
People milled around me, and I realized I had stepped forward, but not by much. I closed my eyes. The voice…I need to find it again.
I heard it then, calling. The words were indistinguishable, but it was the voice. I closed my eyes and concentrated, stepping toward it. When my eyes opened, I was at the base of the hill. Several people cried out in joy and began running up the hill, but many of them faltered after only a few steps. They clung to each other, and only faltered more, and then tumbled down. They waved their fists at the ones who made it to the top.
More people moved forward to take the places of the fallen. As some dashed up the path, I noticed that many others carried sticks. They bore down on their crutches, gripping them with white knuckles, their eyes set firmly on the path before them. Despite their vigil, they tripped over unnoticed rocks, twigs, and other obstacles. They too stumbled and fell. Most never took their eyes from their crutches long enough to witness the ones who had succeeded.
I moved forward with the next group, my heart pounding. So many people…I stared in wonder that there was room enough for us. The path seemed impossibly thin only moments before. There were people walking, running, bearing down on crutches, and as in the other groups, most of them tripped and fell and disappeared back into the crowd at the base of the hill. Their disappointment leached into me. Why was this so hard? As my eyes wandered from person to person, my own feet slid out from under me. I dropped to my stomach and grabbed at the earth.
“No!” I cried. “I have come too far!” Tears of frustration stung my eyes. My fingers dug into the dirt. It made no sense; this should not be difficult. But the need itself, the very thing that swelled my heart with hope, also squeezed it with fear and misunderstanding. I closed my eyes again, gritting my teeth with determination. This is what I want. With all my heart, mind and soul.
The voice boomed in my ear.
I lifted my head, trying to absorb my surroundings, while keening my ears. That’s when I finally saw it—the common thread among the people who didn’t falter in their climb. Their eyes stayed locked on the top of the hill. They didn’t mimic the attempts of those around them, nor lean on crutches, nor stare at their own footing. They held their heads high and focused on the source of the voice.
I took a deep breath and stood. Blocking all distraction, I raised my gaze to the hilltop. There he stood, the man whose voice had called me, and I could finally make out the words. The dribble of joy I had felt became a flood, quenching my thirst more fully than anything before. With my eyes fixed on him, I smiled and rushed forward. My feet gripped the ground with ease until, finally, I stood before him.
My thirst was vanquished.
I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip--
Kat Heckenbach is a Florida native and graduate of the University of Tampa. When she’s not homeschooling her two kids or bumping around theme parks with her family, she enjoys sharing the ways God has touched her life through personal essays. Several of her essays are scheduled for publication in various Sunday school periodicals and devotionals throughout 2009 and 2010. Her passion for writing began with a desire to author a young adult fantasy novel, which she has completed. As all fantasy novels tend to do, hers has turned into a trilogy and she is now working on the second book. Enter her world at www.findingangel.com or www.kat-findingangel.blogspot.com
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