When I was growing up, I was often referred to as hard-headed. At the time, I thought that was a bad thing, but I think it has developed into determination. And sometimes, determination is the best asset I have going for me. But at the same time, I’ve never been really good at drawing boundaries or knowing my limitations, and the mixture of determination with the lack of boundary-setting and limitation-knowing skills has gotten me in trouble more than once. But that’s okay, too. There’s always a lesson to learn from it.
I’ve gotten fairly comfortable with taking my two or three mile walks around my neighborhood. It’s not totally flat like the route I walked in downtown Benson, NC a couple years ago, but the hills in my ‘hood really couldn’t be called a challenge. However, yesterday, I hiked 8-ish miles with a group of my friends through some extremely beautiful, but fairly challenging terrain.
I laugh now, because I think back to when we first started out on the trail yesterday, and I was fairly bouncy, and spent most of the first couple of miles at the head of the pack. I felt good. I was breathing deeply. I felt alive. I saw waterfalls–taking pictures and walking around behind them to feel the spray in my face. Even on the crowded trail, I had some “God moments” in those “thin places” where the veil between earth and heaven feels very thin and God feels very close.
I would say that for the first half of the hike, I was doing very well. I was moving quickly, and in no pain. But as the trail stretched onward and upward, I became more aware that I was pushing the boundaries of my limitations. I was getting tired. I was beginning to hurt. And the end was nowhere in sight.
And then, my friend’s 7-year-old daughter–full of energy–dropped back on the the trail to take my hand. She didn’t want me to feel alone or be left behind. And after a while, when she was distracted by the beauty around her and wandered away, my other friends began to take turns coming back to encourage me–to take my hand or walk with me. We would top a hill or round a corner, and the rest of the group would be there waiting.
This is how life is supposed to be, you know. We take the journey, helping each other along. We give a hand where it’s needed. We pass around our trail mix and water — sharing what we have with the others who need. And we enjoy the trail together — each at our own pace — but together.
Today, I hurt. I know that yesterday, I really pushed past my limitations. I exceeded what my body was really ready to handle. But I don’t regret it, because yesterday, I learned lessons and saw the love of God, working in my life, through some of the people I love the most. It taught me lessons about loving better, sharing more, and being more of an encouragement, that I wouldn’t have learned if I had avoided the long, hard trail. It made the trail and today’s soreness and stiffness worth it.
(Incidentally, I didn’t take any “trail” pictures, only waterfall pictures — which is the shot I shared above. And for the record, seeing the waterfalls was worth the soreness and stiffness, too. There’s nothing in the world like waterfall spray in your face!)