Posted by: JennyRain | January 12, 2008

Fear Theology: Hiking on Blood Mountain

Six months ago I attempted to hike the Coosa trail on Blood Mountain, alone. I was neither skilled in rugged trail hiking nor did I have any way to defend myself. Fear prevented me from conquering the trail and left me scratching my head asking “why?” but I made it home alive.

Last week Meredith Emerson, 24, went hiking with her dog on the Freedom Trail, a subsection of the Appalachian Trail on Blood Mountain. This trail is not far from the Coosa Trail that I attempted. She was experienced in martial arts and an avid hiker, plus she had the protection of a dog. Meredith conquered the trail, but failed to make it home alive.

I left Coosa baffled at my failure, angry that the mountain defeated me, and bewildered that fear could have driven me from the task I had set for myself that day. The presence of an overwhelming fear on the mountain overtook me until my feet became like lead and the only steps I could take were back to the trail head. Weeks later I found myself still ruminating on my failure and pondering the meaning of the dread that overtook me. Was my fear real? Was the fear good? Did it have meaning?

The Continued Journey (Part 3): Coosa Trail

Six months later, Meredith was found dead on the same mountain that defeated me. Killed by a man who had no regard for her life, Meredith was unable to protect herself though she had every means available within her power to do so. A senseless act of brutality stole the beauty of her essence from this world. It is a tragic loss to the world, and a death that never should have occurred.  

Is fear ever be a protective force in our lives?

I am wrestling with this concept. I am wrestling with why Meredith was not protected. I continue to ponder the fact that fear literally became an active presence on the trail with me that day preventing me from going any farther. Did it protect me somehow? That tension messes with my theology. Fear is supposed to be dangerous, not protective. Fear is supposed to be the enemy, something you run from, not run to. Fear, according to the theology I have been taught, is never your friend because fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Yet for me, fear was not false. It was real. It was so real the day I attempted to hike Blood Mountain that it became a living, breathing presence that walked every step with me until I could take no more steps forward.

Did Fear choose me that day so that Evil could not?

I am left in my attempts to reconcile the disconnected reality that something very destructive (fear) could have potentially protected me from something even more destructive (evil). I do not understand this new reality.

I also wrestle with why friendly-fear did not ultimately protect Meredith too. Her life is no less valuable than any other life in this world. She, like the rest of us, was made in the Image of God. She, like the rest of us, had a worth and purpose in this world. And now the world is robbed of her life that could have been.

I find myself angry at God for allowing this wrongful death to occur. If God is truly a good God, then why, in His compassionate mercy, did He not try and warn Meredith too? I don’t understand… do we not all deserve His same arms of protective Grace?

And Jacob wrestled there with the man, alone… When the man saw that he could not get the best of Jacob, he threw his hip out of socket… Then he said to Jacob, “You are no longer Jacob, you are Israel [God-wrestler] because you have wrestled with God and man and have come through” 

Jacob demanded the man’s name, but never received an answer. Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!” Genesis 32 (paraphrased)


All writings copyrighted by author (c) 1.12.2008



  1. Maybe God did try to warn her. Maybe Meredith decided to continue despite her feelings of fear. No one could ever know what she was thinking. Maybe her training in the martial arts taught her to deal with fear in different ways.

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