Last summer we took our first ever family vacation that didn’t involve staying with friends or family. For a week just the four of us explored places 3/4 of us had never been before. (When you grow up spending your summers in a tour bus traveling the country with your family’s ministry, well there just aren’t many places Kedron hasn’t already explored!)
We spent one day hiking a state park. We knew we were asking a lot of the kids physically. We came armed with water bottles, good shoes, snacks, and a lot of patience.
The initial incline was paved, but steep. I’d researched ahead of time, and had a plan. Rather than driving to the top, I knew if we hiked up, then out to the edge of the cliffs, we could then walk down a set of stairs to the ocean front. The beauty and the experience would be worth the hike.
Five minutes into the adventure one child started a chant: “This is the worst trip ever. The WORST trip ever. I’m never doing this again!”
I clenched my teeth, closed my eyes, and offered patient encouragement. I know it’s boring and hot and hard right now, but just over the top is something like you’ve never seen before.
Twenty minutes later we approached a crest, and the Pacific ocean spread in endless blue below us. We paused on cliffs looking out and down at glittering water as white foam slid across the sand. The salty air tousled our hair, and I breathed a prayer of gratitude for time on this beautiful earth and the opportunity to see sights such as this.
The same child who ranted about this being the worst trip ever was now cheerfully snapping pictures of every little detail. In fact, the only complaint I heard the rest of the day was, “But I don’t want to leave! I want to stay here forever!” I knew if they hung in there they’d love it.
There are countless times where I’ve hiked through life, sweating, grumbling, really not sure where the path was leading.
It’s hard work, this trusting that God knows where the path leads and that it’s not off a cliff.
Yet like a patient parent, He provides gentle encouragement, if we are paying attention, if we aren’t so grumpy and caught up in our own misery to listen.
He might whisper to us through a passage of Scripture to keep going.
He might send a friend to hike with us for part of the way.
He might send a peace, a way of just “knowing” that you shouldn’t lose hope.
Sometimes the path drags on longer than we anticipated.
Sometimes, the destination isn’t what we thought it would be.
Sometimes we pass right by what we were hoping for and God says, “No. Keep moving, that one’s not for you.”
Do I trust there’s a view beyond imagination waiting at the end? Do I keep following, believing that He is good, even when circumstances are not?
King David had been anointed, hand-picked by God to be the next King of Israel. Yet his path to kingship was long, lonely, and fraught with conflict as King Saul hunted him down to kill him. Yet through it all, David repeatedly turned his heart to God.
God you turn my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop. With you I can scale a wall. Your way is perfect. You are my shield and refuge. (See 1 Samuel 22)
I don’t always (ok, often) understand the specifics of what He’s up to, where He’s leading me.
Yet, when I look backwards, down the path I’ve already traveled, I know He is guiding, leading, even in the dark places, even when I don’t understand.
I see how He walked beside me.
I see how He sent others to say just the right thing at just the right time.
When I look at the details, the whole picture, not just the pain of the moment, I can’t help but see so much goodness.
I see His redemption in the midst of my pain. While many things I’d never, ever wish to go through, I can’t deny the work He’s done in spite of those trials, how He’s made me more compassionate, grown my faith, opened my life up to so much more than just me, me, me.
I read the stories in Scripture and I see His heart for redemption, to draw people to Himself.
So I keep hiking. I keep trusting. With His help. With Him.
Whatever your long hike is right now, keep hiking. Keep trusting. Keep turning to Him for His help. Look for the beauty in the midst of the struggle. Look for little details of His provision that you might be missing. Look back over your life. Write down the highs and lows. Look for how His hand has been there all along.
With His help, you can climb this wall.
all photos by Kedron Rhodes.