What if I challenged the commonly held opinion that “mountain top” experiences translate to the best, most exciting times of life? You know, like the birth of a child, falling in love, graduating from college, that dream job!
What if instead some of life’s high points translate to times of intense loss, trouble, suffering, or responsibility?
What if these stress generators compel us like rock climbers on a cliff to seek safe hand and footholds, to check the security of our anchor and keep moving?
Let me get something straight right here lest someone think I am saying that the loss of parent, spouse, or (and this one gives me chills) a child, or being diagnosed with cancer or any myriad of life altering tragedies should feel like a ‘mountain top’ experience. Clearly difficult times are just that: DIFFICULT yet these are the times that test and define a person’s faith and character.
What if for some the experiences that shake us up, cause us the greatest sorrow, stretch our faith, and require every ounce of our attention become in the rearview mirror of life THE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS OF LIFE?
I am reading THE BOYS IN THE BOAT: Nine Americans and Their Quest for Gold in the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown. The author paints a story of not just the Washington University rowing program and team, but a portrait of an Era. These 9 boys were not elite Ivy Leaguers, they were sons of loggers, farmers, fishermen. Using interviews, journals, letters, Brown tells their story…especially focusing on Joe Rantz, a young man who lost his mother at age 3 only to be abandoned by his father, stepmother as they took his younger half siblings away to look for work when he was in his early teens. That he managed to survive, graduate from high school, make it onto Washington’s rowing team while supporting himself is a tribute to those who helped him along the way and his own willingness to work as hard as it took. Only one in the boat had ever rowed a lick and that was not competitively on a team.
But THE OUTCOME WAS A TRIBUTE TO THEIR HARD WORK, STRUGGLES, AND TRUSTING EACH OTHER.
SO, what if we reexamine those previously considered high points of life?
FALLING IN LOVE
BIRTH of CHILDREN
Honestly and I speak for myself I have experienced all of these (you probably have your own list.) NONE came without disappointment, loss, pain, suffering, and struggling to find those hand and foot holds while checking the anchor…AND while acknowledging that everyone of them involved the euphoria of accomplishment, joy, and Love.
I have also experienced grief, financial problems, added responsibilities, and health issues, mine and the health of those I love. I expect there are more of these to come, just being real here, life has a way of testing us and getting older makes those rock climbing events more difficult.
Valleys are not the hard times of life, they are the resting places, the recovery pastures, before we continue the climb. If we stay too long in the valley, we risk missing the adventures both jubilant and sad.
What if just another foothold, just another handhold brings us to another peak with a view of all the lower peaks behind us, the restful valley, and yet more higher mountains to climb.
The best part is that we are not alone. We have each other fragile as we all are. We have a God who knows our weaknesses and guides our steps. Trusting God and trusting others on the climb gives us all the grace and momentum we need to pound our fist in the air with triumph.