Jan 28, 2012

Hiking through life

One of the joys in my life is the opportunity to mentor pregnant and parenting teens.  I spend roughly 7-8 hours a week in conversations, text messages, mentoring groups and emails with the young people God has directed me to love. (I admit I easily spend another 2 hours as week praying for those same young people). This last week God inspired me with an analogy about life that I wanted to write down and share.

We have all heard some good and some not so good analogies about life; Life is like a box of chocolates; Life is like an onion; Life is like a game; Life is like a race; Life is like a coin; Life is like a novel; Life is like a sail on the ocean.    My personal favorite is that Life is a journey.    It's not original, but it is easy to unpack.

Life is like a journey, but not a road trip with a fast car and lots of pit stops, it's more like a hike.   Not so much a hike up a single large mountain with one peak (Everest or Kilimanjaro, anyone?), but rather, an exhausting journey through an endless mountain range (think the Rockies, the Andes, or the Himalayas).

As we each take our journey, there are certain things that can impact how successful we are at reaching the peaks (or goals) along the way.

  • Our journey is impacted by the topography.   As we move along, sometimes the path we start off on can be more challenging or so much simpler than other person's.  Maybe we have steeper summits (physical, mental or emotional disabilities), maybe we have sheer cliffs (moments that are life and death), or maybe the way is easy going. Psalm 23:4 "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
  • Our journey is impacted by the weather.  Regardless of the difficulty of the path, sometimes the weather distracts us, confuses us, or stops us cold.  The storms of life can frighten us into immobility.  A fog of depression can keep us from finding our way.  An earthquake of tragedy can shake our faith.  An icestorm of anger can cause us to slip and slide back into old habits, or onto paths that take us the wrong way.  Psalm 107:28-30 "Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm,  and he guided them to their desired haven."
  • Our journey is impacted by what we carry with us.   What are you carrying in your backpack?  Do you have the necessary tools to handle sheer cliffs, or the ability to protect yourself from a sudden storm?  Are we carrying rocks of self doubt, shame and bitterness that are weighing us down? Do we have the Water that will take away your thirst?  Are we carrying (and READING) a Map (ahem, Bible) to help us find our way? Psalm 38:4 "My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear."  Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
  • Our journey is impacted by those walking with us.   Though we all have our own journeys, we still have others who walk alongside us.  When professionals undertake an arduous climb, they often tie themselves together, so if one slips, stumbles or falls, the rest of the group can help them. In a group of 2 or 3, sometimes if one person falls, they can pull the other person or people down with them.    In the same way, through life we tie ourselves to others.  To spouses, to children, to co-workers, to parents or friends.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 "Though one may be overpowered,
       two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."  Who you have with you will make a the biggest difference in how quickly you climb, how well you weather the storms, how often you slip or camp-out and how well you carry your burdens and responsibilities.  Do you have a Guide that you are following?  A mentor, or maybe, the Creator of the mountains?  Isaiah 26:7-8 "The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth. Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts."
As you probably noticed, the first two are things that you don't have a ton of control over.  Just like in life, you never know what is coming along to challenge you.

The last two are things somewhat in your control...  Questions to consider:
  • What baggage or burdens do you need to release to be more successful as you continue your climb?
  • What tools do you need to pick up to help you along the way?  
  • Are you reading the Map or are you making it up as you go along?
  • What about the people you have walking alongside you?  Are they slowing you down or are they challenging you to go farther, faster?  
  • Are you using precious energy dragging someone up the hill who you need to release and insist they walk?  Do they greet each new summit with a groan or a cheer?  
  • What about the Guide?  Are you following Him or are you forging ahead?
  • If you are walking alongside someone, what kind of person are you?  Do you find yourself pushing others up hills, allowing piggy-back rides or offering a steadying hand?  Do you struggle with leaving people behind?  
  • How do you know if it's the right time to "cut the rope" to "save" yourself or someone else?

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