Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Long Journey

"The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different that you and I were intended to be….It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own." - C.S. Lewis 

My guys all headed out on a hike yesterday because temperatures were in the low 70s and it was a beautiful day in Boulder. The hike they decided to do is one that is fairly difficult in summer because it is very steep and rocky, but in winter is much more difficult because of ice and snow. Most of the snow had melted off, but there were still icy patches in many places. They climbed close to 3000 vertical feet in about 3 miles, so that gives you an idea of how steep it was the whole way. There were many places where they had to use their entire bodies to pull them up and around large boulders to keep going - there was no clear path on parts of the hike - just big rocks. They made it to the summit and all felt that sense of accomplishment and joy and the belief that it would only be easier heading down. They made it down, but one son fell twice on the ice and the other one literally ran into a tree. There was an old, dead tree with a large branch overhanging the trail and he hit it with his head -  because he forgot to look up as he was staring down at the next step on the trail. They called me at the bottom of the hike, exhausted with it having taken longer than they had expected. They got home and were all joking about the falls, but also talking about how sore they were and the difficulty of adventure. They thought the pain was over, but they woke up today in a good amount of pain and exhaustion from the hike. They have a lot more training to still do before they hit the 14ers this summer that they plan to hike.

I was thinking about their hike this morning as my younger son moaned and groaned about the pain he was in. I started to really see this as an analogy of our journey when we decide to follow Christ with our lives and surrender all to Him. I started to compare it to our family's commitment to serve E4 Project, and all the ups and downs of doing ministry. While I love what God has called us to do, it can be really hard. 

This hike seemed like the story of my life these past few years. We work really hard and give what we can - from our finances, to volunteering a lot of time to the ministry, to giving up half of Eric's vacation each year for travel to Africa. The road is long and the work is hard, but we continue to follow the path that God has laid out for us in serving Him.  Here is the thing though - a lot of the time, I feel like I am running into boulders and large walls that are too difficult to climb. Just as it was with the hike, the path can disappear and I am fumbling around to find my way. I want to quit. I want to live my life for myself instead of surrendering to Christ daily.  I am like my son who was staring down at the trail and ran into a tree because he was forgetting to look up.  Look Up. That is what we need to do continually so that we do not lose our way. Looking up is keeping our eyes fixed on God and His larger plan that we are just a small part of.  If I only look down at each step in front of me, I lose sight of the larger picture that God is trying to show me. 
"We must train ourselves for bad times as well as for good…How we anticipate and are willing to accept pain will dictate whether we walk away or sustain faith through times of suffering. Our expectations and preparation for trial will govern our ability to endure spiritual drought and burnout. Building a robust theology of suffering both prepares us for and acquaints us with the journey we have been called to walk." - Ken Wytsma, The Grand Paradox
I experience extreme joy when we see lives changed, programs working well and projects completed in our ministry. That is when I feel like I am at the summit of a mountain and have accomplished everything that I set out to do. However, within just days of that, I can enter a valley of spiritual/servant burnout or complete fatigue due to other problems that we face in the work we are doing. Then I start slipping and sliding down the mountain to pain and discouragement. I have to remind myself that the tasks put before us as followers of Christ is like training to climb a mountain. You don't just get up in the morning and do it, you train - all the time.

While I am using the example of ministry here, this applies to every part of our lives as well. I think the part of the analogy that really stands out the most to me is remembering to look up. That is the only way that we will get through the hard times and valleys that we experience.  The summit is such a great place, but often we learn the most from God on the way down and through the difficult valleys.  

If we keep our eyes on Him, He will continue to provide us the way forward to continue serving Him. 
"I'd love like I'm not scared. Give when it's not fair. Live life for another. Take time for a brother. Fight for the weak ones. Speak out for freedom. Find faith in the battle. Stand tall but above it all - FIX MY EYES ON YOU " - lyrics from Fix My Eyes by For King and Country
I have used this quote before - this is my life's goal and it applies again to the realizations I have today. If I could just follow the words above on a daily basis - the long journey would not matter because each day I would be focused on the important things in life - serving God and others - and continue to become who Christ wants me to be. Oh yeah - and here are some of the reasons that I continue to press on and serve….

1 comment:

  1. The views on the mountain tops are exhilarating but fruit is produced in the valleys. I