A good number of years ago, over twenty, I ventured out into the mountains with a friend. We were going to hike a trail that went up higher than what I had ever hiked before. I remember setting out very determined. I was going to conquer this mountain if it killed me. Well, it almost did!
After going quite a long way up the mountain, head down, fists mostly clenched, consumed with getting to the top, I almost walked right off the mountain. Had it not been for my hiking partner calling my name (I remember feeling so annoyed and at first ignoring him) and finally yelling at me to stop, a couple of more steps and I would have stepped over the edge into the abyss below.
As I look back at that experience, I feel grateful that I was hiking with someone who knew the way and truly had my best interest in mind. Thank God! What I did not know at the time was that my approach was misguided. It was good to have a sense of determination and a strong will to reach the summit. However, it was not good to be so consumed with accomplishing the task that I could not see value in anything else along the way.
So what did I miss along the way? There were spots where one could stop and take in the beautiful views and there were fellow hikers wanting to share a smile and say hello. I did not have time for that though. I just wanted to get to the top. The places to pause and the fellow hikers with their kind gestures and attempted interactions seemed more like obstacles, hindering me from reaching the goal than anything else. At the time, I did not see them as gifts along the trail…hidden jewels waiting to be seen or heard, and capable of adding richness and providing respite, strengthening and enlivening me for the remainder of the journey.
I could not see the splendor on the way up the mountain, but my hiking partner could, and all those taking in the views or sharing friendly gestures and words along the way could. I learned so much from Brian and the other hikers on the mountain that day. I was holding on so tightly to the notion of overcoming the obstacles along the way and succeeding…getting to the top…that everyone and everything around me appeared as enemies instead of the friend, the resting spots, and the friendly faces placed along the way.
It is interesting how sometimes the “enemy” on the outside is not the enemy at all, or pales in comparison to the enemy within. Also oftentimes, the best way up the mountain is with a wide lens view with stops all along the way rather than quick, straight, and in a tunnel. Most importantly, when traveling with God, the goal never becomes an obstruction.