One of our family’s favorite things to do is to hike Harney Peak in South Dakota. The first time we hiked the mountain, we hadn’t actually planned on completing the entire trail. The kids were pretty small and we just wanted them to enjoy a part of the experience with the plan to do the entire thing on the next trip. Since our hike would be fairly short, we packed a water bottle per person and headed happily on our way. Within about twenty minutes we started hearing the familiar, “How much longer do we have to walk?” “When are we going to get there?” We kept replying with, “Just a little longer guys.” Up ahead we could see a little clearing with a good clear view of the neighboring Harney Peak and decided that after showing the kids the peak, we would turn around. Well, something unexpected happened. When the kids caught sight of the goal, they suddenly became courageous and started demanding that we finish the entire hike. John and I were completely taken off guard because the peak was clearly not close. We won’t go into the part about how we were completely unprepared for a fairly long hike, or how we ran out of water, or how Josiah got a migraine, or how we hiked with ONE bag for all six of us with only ONE water per person and how we ran into college students who were adequately prepared with a lot of water, plenty of food and helped us out by giving us ibuprofen. I wouldn’t want you to think that we’re bad parents and don’t know how to take care of our children, so I definitely won’t go into all of that. ANYWAY, it seemed to us that when the kids saw how far in the distance we would have to walk, they would want to turn around for sure, but instead they were given the resolve they needed to keep going.
Isn’t that like life sometimes? We’re walking along on our path of life and we start to lose heart. We thought this would be a beautiful journey. We started out excited and full of energy, but now all we see are the same trees over and over and over. Our legs hurt and we’re tired. The view we had in our mind gets a little muddied by life. Sometimes we start to focus hard on figuring out our dilemma and lack of heart in the journey. If I can just make it to that bend in the road up ahead I can keep going. Maybe if I just am a little more disciplined, the walk will have a little more meaning. If I read my Bible more and pray more things will start to come together. Maybe if I attend this class with 7 keys to a successful Christian life, my life will make more sense. I know that there is supposed to be abundant joy. That’s it, I need to be more joyful. Maybe my problem is that I am not serving enough. I think if we’re honest, we’ve all been there at some point. Some of us may be so out of touch with our own hearts because we’re so caught up in the busyness that we don’t know that in the deepest part of us these questions and thoughts are burning. We berate ourselves because of our lack of passion. Why do you think so many experience burnout? or a ‘fall?’ It is crucial for the journey that we don’t lose heart. What if the problem is not that we aren’t doing enough, but that our focus isn’t in the right place.
You see, the kids could hardly.take.another.step until…. UNTIL they saw the beauty of where we were going. That clearing in the trees gave clarity to their little hearts. They needed to see the goal. It didn’t matter that the peak was no where near where we were standing and was still miles away, but the glimpse gave them the strength to keep going. Do you know we didn’t hear a single complaint again about the length of the hike again? They had been complaining after twenty minutes and the rest of the hike took several HOURS with some decently steep climbs for small legs. Those little feet sped up and the complaining turned to resolve and excitement. You see, they had seen something. They saw a beauty worth fighting for and worth hiking for. Before the clearing, that little hike had been nothing but an uncomfortable walk through the trees. You see, when we lose sight of HIM, things begin to look like just a hard walk through some trees. We lose strength because everything is really about Him anyway. It’s not about disciplines, programs and trying harder. It’s really all about KNOWING Him. You see, reading the Bible helps us know what He is like and that’s important. We NEED to know what He’s like, but it’s not the same thing as having an intimate walk with Him. I can know all about someone, but not know them personally at all. Principles won’t keep our hearts alive or our heads above water, but HE will. Most of the time principles to live by are actually the end result that happen as the result of knowing Him. They are not ways to get to Him. Disciplines don’t heal your heart, but HE does. Focusing on becoming more joyful, doesn’t bring joy, but knowing HIM does. The fruits of the Spirit in Galatians are the fruit of knowing and walking with Him. John 15 says that He is the vine and we are to remain in Him. HE is the life bringer, heart healer, bondage breaker and HE is the ‘until’ in the story. Philippians 3:8 Yes, everything else is worthelss when compared with the infinite value of KNOWING Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.
Last year, I had become really tired and the Lord asked me to slow way down. I wasn’t sure why, but He knew exactly what I needed. I needed an ‘until’ moment. You see, when I stopped moving so fast I noticed a clearing in the trees. I saw a God who loves me immeasurably, fights for me relentlessly and heals my heart dramatically. Sure I knew all of this to be true, but perhaps my view had gotten a little muddied and I began to see trees all around. The road was too rocky and my legs hurt. I can say that because of Him, I have found the One that my heart loves. Don’t think I got all fancy or anything. The only thing I did was slow down and I found one line in my journal in answer to a question I was asked. The question was “If your heart was TRULY free, what would be different?” I wrote the tiniest paragraph and wrote, “Please free me,” at the end. 2 Corinthians 3:17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Lord, bring me to a clearing where I can see the worth of you – I need to see you. Psalm 3:3 He is the lifter of our head. When our eyes only see trees and hard road, “Lord, lift my head so that I can see you.” Psalm 121:1-2 I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Our help comes from the LORD. If you find yourself just walking through the trees of life, ask Him to help you really SEE Him. He is the Maker of Heaven and earth. Certainly He knows where to find us and how to help us know Him. If your heart was TRULY free, what would be different?