It was still dark as I nestled further down in my sleeping bag in a desperate attempt to stop shivering. I had always wanted to climb the Middle Teton in Grand Teton National Park and today was the day. Do I really want to do this? I thought. I was tired, cold and missing my kids. This was my first summer vacation without them; they were growing up, working and earning money for college. Their enthusiasm for hitting the trail at 5 a.m. was what I needed at the moment.
Lying there in my sleeping bag, I thought back to the summer my kids and I, along with my friend June and her daughter, climbed our first real mountain. Excitement permeated the air when we climbed beyond the tree line and were exposed to the alpine tundra. Two hours later we spotted the top of the mountain, but instead of forging on full speed ahead, the battle of wills began. My daughter Serena stopped hiking, sat down, and wailed, "This is stupid. You can't make me go any further!" Her sister, Noel, looked at Serena and echoed her thoughts, "I don't care if we go to the top." Nickolas, challenged by his sisters' perceived lack of stamina, decided to run up the hiking path and quickly collapsed, out of breath from the thin air. June's daughter, Tara, just sat down where she was.
Several hours earlier the kids had been thrilled at the idea of going to the top of the mountain. It was all they talked about as we sat around the campfire the night before. But when confronted with the hardships of actually making it to the top, they chose to not go any further. And they weren't alone in wanting to take the easy way out. I, too, had a choice to make. I could force them along the trail, knowing that once we got to the summit they'd be glad I did, or do the easier thing and join them on the ground.
Doing what's right and facing our weaknesses is never easy. Neither is righteous living. That's why Romans 1:17 means so much to me: "The righteous will live by faith." As we stood (and sat) on that mountain, I prayed that what I was about to ask the kids would lead to something positive.
"Kids, we are going to slow down our pace, but we are going to the top." The battle of wills continued and tempers flared. "I know each of you so well, and I really think we can make it. Let's divide into a buddy system so that we don't hike alone. We need each other." The six of us, gathering strength, trekked the rest of the way. The image of us at the top three hours later, hugging and holding hands, still brings tears to my eyes.
Why is it the things of life are easier to achieve when viewed from a distance? As God's child I can't help but wonder how he must see me when I choose to walk a different, easier trail instead of staying the course. Each of us faces mountains every day, mountains God wants us to climb with his help.
As I slowly crawled out of my sleeping bag that morning on the Middle Teton, I remembered the lesson my children had taught me. I knew I had to get up and do what I'd set out to do. Like my children, I was propelled up the trail to the mountain's summit only by my personal belief in doing the right thing, no matter how difficult.
What are the mountains you and your children are facing today? Are you struggling to hold your family together in the face of turmoil? Are you just trying to get through the morning without conflict? Whatever your mountains, step out by faith and trust that through God's grace, viewing the things of life from a distance is no different than viewing them face to face.
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1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today Magazine.
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