The Meat Grinder


The fall I was 18 years old, our youth pastor, Mark, decided that our youth group needed to go on a fall retreat to a local wilderness camp. We were going to camp in really cool cabins down by the river. We’d have bonfires and s’mores, sailing, volleyball, and a “Challenge Course.”

Friday night was awesome. The weather was crisp and cool. We built a fire and laughed and sang and had s’mores (and then a vicious marshmallow fight). It was going to be a great weekend.

And then, we got to the Challenge Course. It started out fun enough. The leaders had us all stand on a 4×4 plank about 18-inches off the ground. Then, without touching the ground, we had to get in order of our birthdates. We laughingly and precariously stepped over each other and around each other and after only a couple of falls, we were in order. We moved on to the next challenge.

For hours, we traversed the Challenge Course. The immediately obvious thing was that each challenge was more challenging than the one before. The thing I didn’t notice at the time was that each challenge required the group to rely more and more upon each other. For “The King’s Ring” we had to build a “ladder” of people to get a tire over the top of a telephone pole. That was no problem for me. I made a good “bottom rung” and managed to keep both hands and feet on the ground.

Finally, we came to “The Meat Grinder.” For this challenge, each team member had to get over a barrel that was suspended 6 feet in the air. For some of our older, tall guys, this was no harder than pulling themselves over. But for me—an overweight 5 foot weakling—there was no way I could get myself over. I watched each person allow themselves to be boosted or lifted over. I watched our team members lift and push and pull and catch each other. And the whole time I was watching, I was wishing that the ground would open up and swallow me. If I hadn’t been lost out in the middle of the woods with these people, I probably would have made a run for it. But as it was, I had no escape.

Finally, there were only two people left. Me and one of our college students, Brad.

Brad was tall and athletic. He turned around and looked at me expectantly. The whole group stood on the other side watching us. And all I could do was stand there knock-kneed, dry-mouthed, and shaking.

“Hey, come on, sister. I’ve got you.”

I heard what Brad was saying, but I didn’t really believe him. I could just see him dropping me. And I was a well-padded girl. I didn’t want some gorgeous college guy picking me up and seeing just how well-padded I really was. But now, with twenty people watching me expectantly, I felt cornered. I didn’t have a choice.

“Come on, Sarah. I promise I won’t drop you. You put your arms up and jump. Chris and Jonathan and Stephen will get you on the other side. You just let us do the work. We’ve got you.”

Terrified, I locked eyes with Brad and nodded. I stood in front of the meat grinder, I put my arms up, and I jumped. I felt the wooden barrel digging into my ribs and I felt hands grasping my hands, wrists, arms, legs.  I landed on the other side just in time to turn around and see Brad effortlessly jump and pull himself over and land behind me.

We had done it!

This week I have experienced both being wounded and being healed… I’m still in that process. But a scripture that I keep running into and tripping over is Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

God keeps teaching me that I can’t get through The Meat Grinder of life alone. I have to take the risk of hurt and be vulnerable. I need the Brad’s of life to give me a boost and keep me from falling backwards. I need the Chris’s and Jonathan’s and Stephen’s to grab me and pull me over and to catch me before I hit the ground. And all of those people who didn’t put their hands into the situation, but who cheered me on… I need them too.

And for those of you that are pushing and pulling me through The Meat Grinder now… Thanks. I couldn’t do it without you and I’m so glad that God sent you.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Another great post, Sarah. It’s important to remember we don’t have to walk through the ‘meat grinder’ alone…
    I love that verse!!

  2. Beautiful post, Sarah. I can’t think of a better way to describe life’s valleys than “meat grinder.” We need each other.

  3. That made me cry. Because I’ve been there. Maybe not on that path, but where you stood – horrified and ashamed. Beautiful post, Sarah.

  4. I was thinking about a time many years ago when I had a grueling test in the hospital. I actually lost blood. A lot. Not enough for a transfusion, but enough that when the test was over, the nurse wanted to help me off of the table (it was high, and she was afraid I would hit the floor). I told you how big I am. I argued with the nurse. She was a short, thin woman. I was afraid I would take her down with me. I would rather fall on my own. She told me I’d have to trust her, because she was a professional. Not easy, but there was no way out of it. She helped me down, and to the washroom where I cleaned up (me, not the washroom…).
    My point? Sometimes we have to trust others when they say we can lean on them.

  5. Don’t know what I would have done other than sit there crying. So glad you had a good group supporting you!

  6. This was so beautiful Sarah! Made me cry and everything 🙂 Thanks for sharing. I’m forwarding this on.

    Another part of the story is how blessed we are when others see what we are, not how we look or are shaped. They don’t judge us by the outside appearance. They don’t judge us at all. They just love and serve us. I see God so clearly in those people, and I’m blessed they are all around me too.

    Thanks for your part in being a helper with the meat grinders in this world.

  7. Meat grinder. Yes, that’s the perfect word. And I swear Sarah, you’re one of the best writers I’ve ever seen.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for the encouragement… it was well needed. How timely. Vaya con Dios.

  9. They were a great group, weren’t they? *sigh* On a side note, I miss Mark and Monique, I Miss the youth group (even though I keep contact with many of them!) Was that the weekend we had to go through that spider web thing, too? I remember looking at the thing we had to climb with the tire and thinking it was impossible. Boy, did the group prove themselves. We do challenge courses like that at the camp now, and everytime there is a group out there doing that, I remember things like this. 🙂

  10. Sarah Salter says:

    I miss Monique. On my desk at home, I have a pic of her, Robert W. and Karen P. from when we worked at CPCC. And yeah, I think that was the weekend we had to go thru the spider web thing. But I don’t think I had to be lifted through that. I think I crawled through that one. Why is it that our camp doesn’t do anything like this? I LOVE YOU, KIMAE!

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