August 7, 2016

Perspective (Part One): When You Can't See Where You are Going

My feet were tucked into my hiking boots with a triple turn in the lace at the crease, then a loop through the hooks near the shoe’s collar; a redirect sent it through a triangle created by weaving the lace around the eyelets that when pulled, kept my heel steady in the bed, and finally, a bow knot, doubled. It sounds complicated but tying the boot has become second nature like running through to Jacob’s Ladder with a piece of string. 

I've learned that perseverance and a good pair of shoes are the two things you need to take with you when hiking a mountain trail. Boots won't do their job if you don't put them on. I think the same is true with perseverance.

One of the first lessons I learned on our hiking trip was how little I needed to comprehend about the trail or the destination in order accomplish the hike. We had a map but a trail looks so flat lying on a piece of paper.

When I considered the heights of the mountains around me, it seemed impossible that I'd find myself at the top of any of them. I wasn’t opposed to going to the heights. My stubborn streak urged me to try, although self-talk reminded me that I am a fifty something lowlander who though her interior age is young and eager, lives in a body that is more mature and not as resilient as it once was.

The trail across the meadow led to a turnstile positioned to keep cows corralled. We entered the forest and walked in the damp shade until we came upon a bench high on a rock ledge where we could sit for a bit and gaze out at the “Three Sisters”----the peaks towering into the blue sky, the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. It was tempting just to sit there and take it in----breathe. But as they say, the mountains were calling so off we went to the heights.

Eventually, the trail dumped us into a valley with a farm where we came face-to-face with the first cows we'd meet wearing bells. Jeff studied the trail map as we stood in the meadow pasture. A cold stream raced past. In the distance, a waterfall fell silent from a towering peak. He turned his body with the map considering whether we were off course. He thought we were, but wasn’t sure. We crossed the creek at a bridge until we found a yellow trail sign pointing the way to a hut somewhere  on one of the mountains above us. We began our ascent.



Holding our trekking poles in our hands, we put one foot in front of the other, after another, after another. Because we had been in the mountains for less than twenty-four hours, our bodies had not acclimated. The air was thin and we gulped it down through gaping mouths.

We climbed steadily but had to stop often. We learned that when we did, our heart rate lowered quickly. Soon we were in a rhythm of walking and stopping, walking and stopping. It seemed we weren’t making much progress. 

As I look back and reflect on our slow hike to the Lobhorn Hut, it's slow rhythmic nature seems to be a metaphor for my spiritual life the last few years, a time that has slowed in regards to activity but has recently given me the perspective of growth. It's taken time for me to understand that I was making progress even when it seemed impossible at the  tedious pace of the "trail" behind me.

Christine Heister echoed similar thoughts I've been having regarding seeing growth with the perspective of time. She wrote these true words as part of a caption for an Instagram post:

“We often don't see our growth until it's done, and eventually, we look back and wonder how it happened. Sometimes I get so frustrated with what seems to me like backward, anti-growth, but then God answers with a flash of understanding and compassion and shows me, from His own eyes, where I've been. The minute and incremental day to day growth needs the balance and perspective of time…” 

When we walked out of a wooded stretch of trail into an open meadow, I turned around and I couldn’t believe where I was standing. The towns and farms down below sat miniature in the distance like they could be held between my thumb and forefinger. I thought at our slow pace we were making little progress. I was wrong. Some may say you can't get anywhere looking back but the truth is, there are days, we need to look back to see how far we’ve come. The perspective showed us even with our labored, not-even-close-to being-acclimated-to-the-altitude climb, we were making progress. 
The town of Wengen is over my head. It is a good size village famous for its downhill skiers.
My boots carried me over miles and miles of trails over our ten-day trip. They were my foundation. When I think about the journey of life, I realize that the trail is before me. I can't see its twists and turns. I need a strong foundation for my life in Christ. I've learned to lace my life with eternal things, unfading treasures that nothing on earth can destroy rather than building my life on accomplishment and efforts in order to be found worthy of love. That's not the Gospel. I am persevering on the path that leads to life eternal dependent on Christ's love for me and his perfect sacrifice on my behalf. 

Perspective tells me the slow path I've taken of late has been fruitful, though for most of the past four years, I wasn't able to see it. As I stop and look back, all the little steps I have taken are adding up. I am changing, transforming, and with hindsight, realizing I have arrived at a place that is my new normal. 

I pointed to several different places above us that I assumed were our destination. Every time we'd reach those places, we'd see the trail markers sending us on. Several hours after beginning our hike, we sat down at the picnic table at the Lobhorn Hut where we promptly ordered a Coke Zero.
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36 ESV)
Whether you running up the mountain before you or make a slow, steady ascent, don't give up. Endure. Persevere. Believe the impossible. In time, you'll look back at the journey and see it was worth it.

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