I have gotten a little out of shape this summer…OK maybe a lot out of shape. It was too hot to do much outside unless I was out by 5:00 am. Let’s be honest here…I didn’t drag myself out of bed at that hour while everyone else slept. I H-A-T-E the gym…with a capital H. So, I have just been lazy all summer long. Now that the kids are back in school, I have been trying to get out hiking in the mornings on some trails near my home. And, man alive…I am feeling just how out of shape I am.
On one of my latest hikes, the sun was just coming up over the mountain. It was a little bit hard to see with how bright it was.
I actually found myself feeling grateful that I couldn’t see very well, because it kept me from seeing just how far I still had to go until I reached the top of that steep hill. I was already tired, my legs were burning, and when I looked up through the bright sunlight and saw that I was nowhere near the top, it was a little discouraging. I just wanted to sit down on the side of the trail and rest for an hour or two. I did stop a few times…for a minute or two…and others on the trail zipped ahead of me like this was the easiest thing that they had done all day. Meanwhile, I was panting and out of breath, with much more of a climb ahead of me. Like I said…out of shape!
However, when I was able to focus only on the trail just a few steps ahead of me, the climb seemed more manageable. I could put one foot in front of the other much easier when I wasn’t constantly reminding myself of how much further I had to go. A few steps at a time were simple in comparison to the whole mountain. Every once in a while, especially when I needed to stop for a minute to catch my breath, I would turn around and look at how far I had come.
Sometimes it wasn’t very far. But, other times, I would catch an amazing view, and the difficulty in getting to that point didn’t seem like such a sacrifice.
I even felt taller than I was at times…
That has got to be worth something. (Or maybe I was just having too much fun with the camera.)
When I finally got to the top, it felt like an accomplishment.
Now, some of you who know which trails I am talking about here may think that I am a bit of a wimp, and I am OK with that. I am comfortable in my wimpiness for now because I’m working on getting back into shape. These trails are not super difficult for the average in-shape person. But, for the average out-of-shape-after-a-lazy-summer person…they can be a little bit of a challenge.
One of the reasons why I enjoy these morning hikes is because I get a chance to be in the fresh air and think. Those two things are a heavenly combination for me. The exercise is an added bonus. And, one thing that I love about blogging is that it helps me to look at ordinary things in a different way as I look for connections worth writing about. When I am in that mind frame, I start to see lessons – sometimes profound lessons – in simple things. This hike was one of those times for me. My thoughts were racing as my tired legs and burning lungs begged me to stop. Here are some of the things that were going through my mind:
Sometimes life is a challenge. Sometimes you are forced to climb steep hills that seem like they will never end. During those times, focusing on how much further you have to go will only make the journey seem more difficult. Sometimes putting one foot in front of the other is all that you can do, and that is OK, as long as you are moving forward. I’ve been there. Haven’t we all? It can be downright exhausting, not to mention discouraging. People may whip past you on the trail, making it seem like this hike is no big deal, even though everything inside of you is screaming at you to stop, almost convincing you that you cannot make it to the top. But, it is not a race. Two people on the same steep trail will have very different experiences, because the very same trials will play out very differently in the lives of two different people. Don’t let their speed discourage you. Every once in a while, when you are slowly pressing forward, you may come to a momentary look-out, where the trail below that you have already trod is still visible, reminding you of its demands and difficulties. At the same time, the breathtaking view of the big picture – the trail you have walked, coupled with the vast beauty surrounding it, is enough to keep you pressing forward on your ascent towards the peak.
So, you walk…slowly…one foot in front of the other…until you arrive victorious. You can then look back to the past as a source of learning and strength. You can be then be grateful for the difficult path that has led you to this moment of accomplishment, knowing that this peak is not the only that you will be required to conquer, but it has shown you that difficulty can bring strength. It has shown you that you are capable of doing hard things that you didn’t believe you could do. With that knowledge comes hope for the future – hope for better times ahead. Not only hope, but also gratitude for the lessons learned through difficulty – lessons that you don’t want to relearn, but have become cemented into your character in a way that can now strengthen yourself and others.
One thing that I have been reminded of this week, as we have dealt with the flooding of our house, is that the Lord is mindful of us in our trials. The water has now receded and the danger has past…for now. But, I was outside looking at the mess that remains to be cleaned up, and I was completely overwhelmed. All I could think was “What now? What do I do with this?”
Yesterday, as I was preparing to go outside and get to work assessing the damage in the garage, I sat down to read a few verses in my scriptures before diving into the project ahead of me. I sat down with my book on my lap, and was actually distracted by something on my phone for a minute. When I finished reading whatever it was that I was looking at on my phone, I glanced down at my scriptures on my lap. I had mindlessly opened the book, and it had opened to the page containing these verses in Doctrine and Covenants section 98:
2 Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.
3 Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.
As a wave of peace swept over me, I realized that the Lord was very aware of what was going on, that He has heard my prayers, and that these challenges are for my benefit. What a beautiful reminder. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the book fell open to these particular verses. The Lord is kind. It was an answer to my prayers – one that will remain etched in my heart for a very long time.
This mountain that I am climbing is minuscule compared to the Mt. Everest’s that others are ascending. But, I believe that the lessons that I am learning apply to all mountains. There is a way to find peace in our trials, and that is through the grace of God. He knows us and loves us. He allows us to experience hardship because it stretches us and can make us into a stronger, more compassionate, more empathetic version of ourselves.
So hope on. Climb on. Keep moving forward, one step at a time. You will eventually make it to the top of that peak, and the view will be spectacular.