On Saturday, I joined a couple friends on a “hike” on the coast of Palos Verdes. I was excited about the idea of this adventure, as sometimes the rut of the gym can be alleviated with a simple trip outdoors. However, I never would have ventured to guess how much I learned, spiritually, on this trek.
What I learned:
WATCH YOUR STEP
Whether it’s an unsteady rock, a dead bird or slippery seaweed, the course wasn’t easily paved out for us. Each step needed to be carefully thought through. Life is like that, isn’t it? Even if we follow our parent’s Alma Mater or career choice, we still won’t have the exact same experience getting there. Unfortunately, watching down at your steps does limit your ability to see the big picture… but trust He has it in mind for you.
GO AT YOUR OWN PACE
Whatever pace others want to go, it’s totally up to you to figure out your journey. Don’t worry about speeding up to join someone else, when you’re meant to take your time. And don’t hurry someone else along to a place they’re not ready to be… just because you are.
Along with going at your own pace…
GO YOUR OWN ROUTE
While friends I was with had suggestions of which path to take, and the level of difficulty attached with it, I had to decide for myself where to step. My route doesn’t need to look like everyone else’s… & where I am in life, it was something I needed to be reminded of. Even if their route looks easy, I still have to find a way of getting to their route, which could take me further out of the way. After all, the basic geometry lesson is the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line. So, instead of looking at my goal; if I side-step to scope an “easier” way, ultimately, I am still prolonging my trek.
Just because some friends are married… some have babies… others are flourishing in their careers – it doesn’t mean (1) it’s not going to happen for me & (2) that I need to be on their time table. I need to trust He has my route set up the way He wants it… & in the time He has best established. For me.
LET HIM LEAD YOUR STEPS
I found a strategy in my hike, similar to the way my dad taught me to drive in the rain. While I kept my head down, focused on my next few steps, I watched whoever was in front of me. If I saw a rock hold steady, I’d copy the move. If I saw a rock give way, I’d scout a different option. God doesn’t need us to get creative through the rocky road we sometimes find ourselves on. He wants us to trust His leading. Trust if the rock holds steady for Him, we just have to copy His behavior.
So, while the two may seem counter-productive, paving my own route while also following someone else’s leading; I saw one as an example of following the world’s opinion… & the other as an example of following the One who made my path.
How do we know when He paves our path? He’ll speak to us… For me, it was this rock. The rock was a reminder that He was with me. You may not see what I see, but I see a heart. His heart. For me. For not leaving me alone.
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
I fell. Pretty bad. Scraped up my leg. Swollen and bruised within 30 minutes of finishing the hike back. The thing is, if you don’t learn from the fall, you’ll likely fall again. Similarly, if you let Him lead, you’re less likely to fall. Just like when I watched the feet in front of me.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
So, this is along the same lines of going at your own pace… but what my girlfriend & I both observed was the more tired we were – the riskier our steps were becoming. We weren’t being careful; we wanted to hurry along the path because we wanted it to be over. The rush, the lack of attention to what we were doing, actually led to a couple of our spills. Again, this was a connection I needed personally. I feel like God has me in ultra-slow-mode in part of my life; I want to move on to the next part of the process. Still, He knows what He’s doing. And clearly, He sees I still need work.
EXPECT A FINAL TEST BEFORE THE FINISH LINE
So, as we initially start walking (ever so cautiously) down the steep path, my friend & I say to each other, “Uhhhh, so we’re going to have to hike back up this to get out??” (Pic: view on our way down…)
We even inquired about another route, but the steep rock was the “easiest” option. I cannot imagine the other routes; if they were truly harder.
Still, knowing you have to climb back up & getting to the bottom of the cliff to start your climb are very different. After all, I had already scrapped up my leg. This hike up was the most important. It was the final battle. But, it was also the hardest. Physically, the incline was tough. Mentally, I was over it. But, spiritually, I knew what I gained from this experience… which gave me peace. Had I refused the final climb, I would’ve been stranded at the bottom, like the shipwreck, with no escape – except back through what I had already come from. Don’t get so worried about the mountain or plateau you’re staring up at, that you leave yourself stuck in the valley longer than God intended.
NO MAN LEFT BEHIND
A popular military motto was made ever so present for me during the hike. Some girls were moving faster, not as cautious. A girlfriend & I were a little more leisurely about it. But the girls ahead would never let themselves get so far ahead they couldn’t see us. When I was facing the climb at the end, one friend offered to take my extra weight (water bottle, car keys, phone). Then she stayed with me, encouraging me to the finish. This doesn’t mean she didn’t go at her own pace. It doesn’t mean she wavered from her course. But she also wasn’t going to leave a man behind.
TAKE A MOMENT TO ENJOY THE JOURNEY
Overall, I must sound like I hated it, don’t I? Look, will I ever do this exact “hike” again? Probably not. Still, the thing that truly resonated with me about the hike was the beauty to be appreciated. We get spoiled sometimes in So Cal, so close to so many beaches. But, really, that hike could have taken all day. We could have spent more time to appreciate the waves crashing into the rocks & the wreckage. We could have stopped to soak in the sun. We could have brought lunch and stayed for a picnic.
Whatever part of my path I find myself on, I just want to remember to cherish it. When we got down the steep cliff side for the first time, we were in awe of where we just arrived. We were soaking up the beauty. How could we not? Look at this view!
In life, we get in some serious places that look like there’s no way out. Appreciation of the journey along the way helps give us hope in dark times… & even guides us back. But, if we’re not careful, we could end up prolonging our spills & time spent in uncertain rocky paths – until we figure out why AND learn to be content there.