August 9, 2016

Perspective (Part Two): Clarity isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be


For three days the mountain peaks of the Alps were hidden from sight. Clouds moved in and through the valleys with such beauty that had we not known we were missing the views of them and from them, we would have been without regret. Thunderstorms and lack of visibility made hiking to higher altitudes risky. We enjoyed valley hikes in raingear---one day in spitting snow.

Our longest stint of staying in one place during our hiking trip in Switzerland was in Zermatt, a touristy ski town at the base of the Matterhorn. 

Though the town is abuzz with languages from all over the world, our room was quiet and comfortable. To our surprise, it had a balcony with an unimpeded view of the pyramid-shaped peak that everyone and their dog was taking pictures of, including us, of course. The inn-to-inn itinerary was great for the most part, but it was nice to settle in for longer than a day or two. We hiked from our base in Zermatt with the Matterhorn looking over our shoulders at every turn.



After three nights, our itinerary sent us back to the train station. We made arrangements to ship our bags ahead to Lucerne and carried the bare essentials in our packs for an overnight trip to a mountain hut. 

I loved riding the trains in Switzerland. The transportation system is really amazing and the views out the windows never disappoint. We rode the rails through a wide valley with sweeping views of beautiful vineyards before switching over to ride buses through hairpin turns up a mountain road. We stepped out into a parking area below the Moiry Glacier on a warm sunny afternoon.

Jeff and I flipped the hinges on our trekking poles, lengthening them for the short hike up to the Moiry Hut, our overnight accommodation beside the giant ice field. We had been in the mountains for over a week and altitude wasn’t bothering us nearly as bad as it had in the beginning. We had walked many trails by that time and knew what was a challenge for us and what wasn’t. 

The trail before us wasn’t long in distance, only two miles, but the Moiry Hut sat on a ridge at 9300 feet---an increase of 1500 feet from our starting point. The last half mile would be steep, 800 feet in only a half mile. The sign said the hike should only take an hour and twenty minutes. We could take our time. The reality was, we wouldn’t have a choice.

We began our hike on a gentle slope beside a mountain lake, the water the color of mint ice cream. The lake’s glacial melt was so thick with minerals that it looked like it had been filled with paint. Up above, the giant Moiry Glacier was silently receding in inconceivable mystery. On the glacier's left bank, we spotted the hut’s roofline outlined against the blue sky.

I wrote in Part One of my thoughts on "perspective" that as we hiked on our first day in the mountains, I was clueless, only able to see my progress looking back. I thought if I could see where I was headed that would be the best motivation for reaching our destination. That’s what I thought until I saw the tiny outline of the Moiry Hut above me. I turned back toward Jeff standing behind me and said flatly, “I don’t think I can make it.



The truth is clarity isn’t all it's cracked up to be. 

Often in life, and especially in times of transition, we want clarity. We want to see where we are going and how to get there. We want the goal to be in our sight. When we can't see, our lack of clarity can be an excuse for not going forward and the reason we get stuck. We pray (maybe beg) for clarity. When God, in his grace, gives us a glimpse of what we asked for, we feel dejected because the place we're headed seems so far away.

I'll admit I've had a stronger "need" for clarity as I’ve gotten older. When I was young, I was willing to take more risks. Life stretched out before me. I didn’t want to fail but I knew I had to time to take another route if necessary.

But as I have gotten older, I’ve tried to convince myself that I should be able to use the wisdom of years to discern where I’m supposed to go and exactly what I need to do to get there---an attitude that hasn't served me well.

God is a giver beyond comprehension or imagination. Our inclination is to only desire what we think we can successfully accomplish, but God has more for us. He wants to give us what we cannot comprehend. We must learn to embrace mystery and be willing to move forward regardless of whether  or not we understand the path before us.

There will be times when He’ll take us to a place that is a complete surprise, to a room with a view. Most of the time, we'll walk in a "long obedience in the same direction."* The challenge of faith is to see with the heart and not the eyes.

We made it to Moiry Hut that day after walking across a moraine, a patch of ice, and then, for the last hour, in a zigzag path over rock piled up by the glacier. It was short in terms of distance but difficult because of the grade and the altitude. As we traversed the hardest part of the trail, the hut was not in sight. 

    So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.    (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

I am letting go of the need for clarity. Our hiking trip taught me that I don't have to know much to start where I am. I only need to see the place before me, the next step. If I will trust the Holy Spirit as my guide, I am sure to reach the heights and someday, come face-to-face with the Beautiful One. I'll get there in due time.

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