Her vision is always a bit bigger than her follow-through, and we love her for that. Our first-born, full of dreams and giant ideas (the more spontaneous the better!), we know well the awkward smile that crosses her face when she realizes she’s over-shot her capacity, once again. It was her that got us all up early to hike that mountain, and to venture off the beaten path and cut straight up to the top, unconventionally. And then, though it had all been her idea, once in the huffing and puffing of the climb, she was the first to shrink back, to slump discouraged, and to want to quit. And there, half way up, through the panting of our winded words, I reminded her of that truth I’ve needed so many times — that truth I need again today: that the way straight up the mountain is to turn around at times, to view the steps you’ve already taken, and recount how far you’ve come.
To Keep Going, We Need to Remember
It’s just like that with the Lord. We have big vision – and it’s right that we do – but we need the hindsight to keep heading upward. Our giant vision and the sheer magnitude of it can leave us disheartened and jaded on the sidelines, what were we thinking anyways? Part of staying steady and not growing weary in our pursuit of the Lord, is not just gazing at the top of the mountain, but taking time to stop and turn around. We need the remembrance of past victories to press forward in the present. Those struggles that we thought were taking us out? Yet we turned to Him and hung on for dear life? They are still speaking. They tell stories to us in the present. They call from behind us like heralders, reminding: “Do not forget how He took your weak ‘yes’ and joined it with His strength here, and you overcame”. Remembering is half the battle of enduring (Ps. 42:6). And our ability to keep charging up that mountain goes hand in hand with our willingness to every so often, turn around.
[framed_box]Some seasons — I know them well — they nearly take us out. Or at least that’s how our vantage point would interpret them. I’m no stranger to the just-putting-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other weeks and months — even years. When the fog is so thick, the accuser breathing close is so believable, and that clarity that I had at first seems so far. These are the kind of climbs that I have the least faith for. In these times, I can’t seem to conjure the presumtion that the victory ahead will be glorious when I can hardly breathe and am not sure my next step won’t catapult me right off the path. Like my daughter, I just want to quit. Yet, these at-the-end-of-our-rope types of seasons are just the times when we need to recall what the Lord has done and to be strengthened in the remembrance of who He is (Lam. 3:20 – 22). He is faithful. He will lead us forward and bring us where we never imagined if we simply give our ‘yes’ to Him. Each trudging, heaving step, an I trust You (Pr. 3:5-6). Each pushing forward without clear vision, an I choose to believe You (Ps. 43:5; 2 Cor. 5:7).
The Lord Never Wastes a Single ‘Yes’
We have no idea what he will do with each small ‘yes’ in a hard season – with those steps up the mountain that feel so insignificant one by one, yet end up being stepping stones for greater heights ahead. We tend to see so myopically, forgetting His hand and His mastery in writing a multi-leveled story. The leadership of the Lord is so much more intricately in the details than we realize. When winter holds on and we can’t imagine why, or when we come out of winter and feel weaker not stronger, we’ve still yet to see the unfolding of all He was cultivating in those upward-climb struggles.
I’m not 20 anymore and yet I’ve been believing in this sort of “great exchange” – my weak ‘yes’ to Him in the midst of struggle in exchange for that leap forward in greater love – for many years. And inching my way to 40, I’ve got a lot of heralders behind me, insisting that I remember, that I not forget. It’s wise to heed their voices. And it’s wise to trust they’ll have a story to tell even when the present struggle seems like such a dead-end road. I’ve waged enough gut-punching interior battles to learn that these yes’s go a million miles if we give them to Him with our whole heart.
Sometimes we quit believing that our agreement with Him in the midst of the struggle or the dark night really matters. In the uphill climb, the twists and turns, the intensity of it all, we let discouragement win us over and we cave to its heaviness. We give up on believing in the “exchange”. Yet here the Lord pleads with us, He pleads with that glimmer in His eyes that knows where this is going if we will but yield our all to Him, come what may. He knows that even in this life, we’ll reach another height where we can turn around and see — look from the summit and behold — another obstacle now marked “more than conquered” (Rom. 8:37).
Heaving up the mountain, we think we’re just trying to yield to Him and trust Him without offense – just trying to stay alive in this moment and not quit. Yet we forget He’s working both sides. He not only wants us to trust Him – He wants us to be trustworthy in the days to come. The way to be trustworthy is to trust Him – without offense — through many difficulties, many struggling steps of faith. So while we’re gripping the ground for dear life and praying those desperate, “I trust You,” prayers, He’s working in us a foundation and root system that can be trusted in the days to come (Ps. 1:3; Jas. 1:2-4).
[framed_box] The Lord never wastes a single ‘yes’ of voluntary love. (Relative to all human history, an unoffended, tender heart saying yes to Him in the midst of a struggle is precious to God for its rarity. We can’t underestimate how infinitely valuable every single one is to Him (Song. 4:9). He multiplies the span of each one far beyond what we can see in the present struggle. There’s a far more exceeding glory being worked in us that we can’t even imagine (2 Cor. 4:17-18). And He will never forgot a single one.
So, up on that mountain, my daughter and I struggling toward the top, I told her to take a moment and turn around. And as we together looked at the heights we’d already scaled, renewed by the remembrance, she smiled. Mountain-climbs hold great stories even half-way up. And recalling where we’ve already come is often just what we need to ultimately reach the top.