by Nadia Ramoutar MMM Communications Coordinator Ireland 22.09.2022
When I was a child, I thought that good things happened to good people. It was something I gathered in my own little imagination and labelled it as truth. As I aged, I saw that I was troubled when bad things happened. I know that sounds very obvious, why would a person not be troubled when bad things happen? As humans, we go through our lives often with the best of intention only to find ourselves dismayed.
It is easy to be spiritual and faithful when life goes our way. Our real test comes when we are faced with unexpected challenges that seem unfair. This summer, I was in that unexpected space. I was thinking of all the good I tried to do in the world in my work and in my life. I didn’t want to see that the obstacles in my way served to make me stronger and increase my faith not diminish it.
I was fortunate to find myself in Santorini, Greece. It was a place I wanted to go to since I was little and first saw images of beautiful stone white buildings against cerulean blue skies and seas. In person, these images are even more beautiful to behold. As I faced my personal challenges, I decided to challenge myself physically. I decided to try and climb a volcano in the hot Greek midday. I was part of a tour group that reached the volcano by boat with a group of other tourists. The volcano was in the National Geological Park of Nea Kameni Volcano in the Aegean Sea.
Climbing a volcano is something I always wanted to do and knowing I would be doing it I had trained in the weeks before I went. But, when I got there, the volcano was dustier and steeper than I imagined. It was also hotter than I was used to dealing with in my Irish homeland. Many rocks covered the path up the side since it was, after all, a volcano. The midday sun was strong and I was starting to feel weak. I had worn the right shoes to climb but I saw a lot of women and girls around me in sandals and open toed shoes. I wore sunscreen and I carried a bottle of water. I am a rule follower so I did as the tour guide recommended.
As I progressed up the volcano, the summit at the top almost seemed to get further and further away. As I was getting higher, the path would turn and another path became visible. Over and over again this happened. I saw people opting out and giving up. There were covered sitting areas on the way. I stopped in one and sipped my water. “Is it much further up?” I asked the woman beside me. “I don’t know. I am not going any further. I sent my husband up without me. I am waiting here.”
I sat. I had another hour before I had to be back on the boat. “You can do this,” I heard the small voice of love in me whisper. I got up and decided to count to four. 1-2-3-4. Counting each step over and over. I was in a dance with the volcano now. Up, up, up, up. It kept growing in size and I started to grow in courage. I stopped and looked back. There was a stunning vista of sea and cliffs around me. I thought for just a moment about the glory of God and the beauty of nature. The various blues, greens and turquoise colours in the water below in juxtaposition to the stone and dust of the volcano.
“Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” The words of Joshua, 1:9 ran in my head. I realised that the greatest challenge I faced was not the steep volcano, the midday sun or the dust, it was fear. I was afraid. I had never done this before. I didn’t know where I was going or what might happen. Then I felt a connection to the volcano, a force of nature so powerful and unpredictable. Back to counting. 1-2-3-4.
I got to the top of the volcano, and I had panoramic views of the glorious Greek island. My heart was overcome with beauty and with a sense of fulfilment. I thought I might cry with relief. Instead of being tired, I descended the volcano with the joy and energy of a child. I almost skipped down. I realised somehow that I had lost the crowd of tourists I had begun with on the journey. God and I were there in that solitary moment and I felt a profound peace and calm I have always craved, a gift granted when courage is our only currency.