For her birthday, my oldest daughter Brooke asked if I would accompany her on a hike, high in the alpine mountains above Hyrum, Utah.
First you have to know that she is more than twenty years younger than I am – and has always had incredible energy and drive. She accomplishes more in a few hours than I do in an entire day.
I love the mountains, and I love her, so I willingly accepted. I did not take into account that, due to my recent schedule, I have not been consistent in my daily exercising (so I am somewhat out of shape), and that hikes usually entail significant uphill trails which can be pretty demanding. I only envisioned the joy of being out in nature with my daughter, and I was excited.
As we headed up the steep rocky trail, it very quickly became apparent that she was setting a pace I was unaccustomed to – and one that I would not be able to hold for very long. The path followed a stream that gurgled over rocks and tree roots, and there was frequent welcome shade where the tall trees’ branches reached over the trail. It was beautiful, and I drew strength from the beauty that surrounded us. But that strength was not quite enough, and after not too long, I guess she perceived I was beginning to ‘lose steam’.
“Let’s rest in this shade…” she graciously offered as we arrived in a cool glade of aspen. Her husband and my youngest daughter were with us, and they seemed almost as relieved as I felt when we stopped to catch our breath.
After a brief rest, we were back on our way. And although I loved being out in all of that breath-taking beauty, I wished I could slow down a bit! The pace demanded too much of my focus just to keep climbing, one step after another.
Brooke thoughtfully stopped us for frequent rests that I know she didn’t need. She still seemed full of energy when, after a few hours, we had hiked through meadows of wildflowers, groves of pines, hillsides of aspen and sheer rock cliffs. We finished the hike and headed down toward the car, filled with a deepened appreciation for the beauties of this world.
But I have decided that I am at a place in life where, although I still love hiking, I now go with a different objective. No longer am I driven to get to the top of the mountain, or the end of the trail, or even to the wonder that the guidebook promises is just around the next bend. I now enjoy a slower pace, and I am prone to halt more frequently to study the rock that, in earlier years, I would have simply stepped over. My eyes are less focused on the montain top and instead are drawn this way and that, eager to study a wildflower that beckons to be smelled, an unusual leaf, or the butterfly that flits from one blossom to the next. I am lifted by their beauty, and I am renewed by being surrounded by God’s abundant creations. I am content to sit and listen to the breeze rustling the tops of the giant pines while others continue the climb to the top of the trail.
I believe that trauma, loss, discouragement and grief require us to slow down and pull back from the frantic pace of daily life, and can even be an invitation to look for the small things that witness to us that God is aware of us and our struggles, and that He desires to lift us with all that He created specifically to bring beauty into our lives, and peace into our hearts.
Of course He knew we would meet with difficulty in this life, and I believe He planned to surround us with things that would give us healing, hope and courage, if we would only open our eyes to them.
So if you are seeking that healing, and if you find sometimes that your hope and courage are failing you, slow down. Don’t let the length of life’s journey discourage you, but rather, focus just on today, and open your eyes and find one of God’s messages of hope – a beautiful view of a mountain, meadow, or lake; the song of a bird outside your window, or the intricate beauty of a flower.
Choose a slower pace – and find hope!