I could hear the sound of my blood pumping my heart loudly in my ears. It was louder than the sound of the waterfall I hiked next to. This particular hike was not one I enjoyed, and it held the first of many lessons I’d find on a trail in the woods over the next few years.
The first mile and a half were easy; all downhill, along a gorgeous stream with multiple waterfalls. Every few hundred feet or so I’d step out onto the rocks and admire how gently the water would gather before cascading down another elevation drop.
My destination was the bottom. At the base of the last 80 foot drop falls I ate lunch and played with my family. It was a perfect day.
Then, it was time to climb back up to where we had started.
My legs felt it almost instantly. The heat in my muscles made me very aware of what I had hardly noticed on the way down. The rest of the way back was all uphill.
I had hiked a few times before, but each of those had given me a “mountaintop experience” to look forward to. The excitement of the wondrous views ahead always boosted my morale and encouraged me along.
But this time I was floored by how everything in front of me was a climb. All I could see in front of me was how steep it was, and I was becoming more and more aware of the fact that my husband and daughter were moving at a much faster pace than me. I remember more than once finally catching up to them sitting on a log relaxing, only to have them jump up and exclaim, “Finally!” before continuing upward once again. I’d stop for a few seconds to catch my breath and began to berate myself for being so slow, so weak. Being weak meant I didn’t get to rest like they did. Being weak meant I wasn’t as good as them. And being weak meant I felt nothing but pain, exhaustion and shame for the rest of my hike.
It’s surprising to me as I reminisce about this experience that I chose to ever hike again.
But I did.
As a matter of fact, I came back to this same exact trail only a few weeks later and began to experience it all over again. But this time, I didn’t berate myself.
You see, the Lord had begun showing me that I had weaknesses in my life. But when He looked at my weakness, He cared for me.
He pointed out a tiny flower alongside the trail. It was beautiful and fragile…and it awed me with its beauty and made me smile from the inside out.
He said He felt the same way when I had fallen in this very same spot weeks before during one of my weakest moments along the trail.
I need to repeat that now as I type it…. Because I’m not sure you picked up on the paradigm blowing thought behind what He said.
When I had fallen, and was in my weakest state, Jesus saw beauty and fragility and He smiled.
This concept shouldn’t have been such a hard thing to grasp. I am a mother after all. I remember what it was like to hold my newborn babies in my arms and gaze upon them for hours.
Babies are the weakest members of the human race. I love babies! Babies are beautiful just as they are… I didn’t wish my babies were adults right away. I was excited by the mystery of what their future would bring as they grew up. As I looked into their eyes, I never once expected them to be stronger than they were, but I also knew that someday they would be. There was excitement with each new stage of growth, not because they were no longer weak… but because they were experiencing growth.
Growth is the ultimate life-giving statement.
Like the trees continue to grow stronger each year along the trail, their once weaker state never is seen as something to be ashamed of.
Likewise, I don’t need to feel shame for my weakness either. I began on that day to realize that this area where my body was weak was simply an opportunity for growth.
Now, as I look back at this trail along the creek, it is winter. Everything is bare and quiet. Even the waters are quiet as they are frozen by the winter’s cold.
Do you know what is happening now? All of nature is preparing for new growth, all of nature is resting.
The weak need the time to rest just as much as the strong do.
How many naps does a baby take?!
I think sometimes the weak think they need to charge on through to catch up with the strong and skip out on their rest. I know I thought that way my first time on this trail.
But the second time, I took time to rest during the hardest parts. By the time I got back to my car I felt stronger than before.
Am I proud of myself for “getting stronger”?
Sure, just like I was proud when my kids learned to sit up on their own. But the best part of this return trip to the falls was being able to love my weakest places. The sound of that tender response is even louder than my own heart…and it seems to match the rhythm of God’s heart too.