Perspective is everything…and I tend to lose proper perspective easily. Often. I am a chronic perspective-loser. (If that’s even a word.) Two weeks ago was one of those times.
I was away from home on a work trip with my family and trying to juggle the normal responsibilities from my perch in the South. It was one of those times when the to do list in my brain was overwhelming me and making me a bit crazy. My fuse was getting smaller and smaller and my attitude was challenging me hourly. With an upcoming conference and other ministry opportunities, I was trying to get some work done, despite my being away from home. All of this and more were piling up in my mind. One of those times where you mark off two things on your to do lists and add four. At night my brain wouldn’t shut off. I was tired emotionally. I was discouraged.
Then I climbed a mountain.
Ok…it was more like a high hill with lots of rocks, but none the less, they call it a mountain. Pinnacle Mountain in Arkansas. I was told it was a “hike”, and if I had been in shape, it would have been just that…but it was more like a humbling stop-and-go climb for me. Three quarters of a mile seems like an easy hike until you put it 1,011 feet in the air. That changes things tremendously. The terrain was very rocky and thankfully, I am told we were on the “easier side”. That’s a very good thing. Otherwise…I’m not sure if I would have made it in one piece.
It was a hike. Took me an hour to summit, being 26 and sorely out of shape. I kept hearing my heart pounding out of my chest and my heavy breathing. It’s a very effective way to shut me up since I couldn’t talk and huff and puff simultaneously.
Every 10 minutes I stopped for a breather. Every bench had my name on it. My two teenage siblings were ruthless in their fun ribbing. “The old lady” was climbing a mountain! I waved them off…they were right, I was older than them AND out of shape. I reminded them that they didn’t have to run ahead and prove themselves! “Let’s enjoy the trip” really translated to “I am dying, can you slow down?”
Along the way, I was met by many athletic folks jumping and skipping rock to rock…as I hoisted myself slowly from one to the other. They exhausted me even more just watching them. We saw one man, probably in his late sixties or older, who was jogging downhill at a much younger speed. Our friend who took us on the hike said that same gentleman is there all the time. That knowledge wore me out too. People take this mountain climbing serious…like it’s a favorite pastime, or something. I mused at my very different ideas of a favorite hobby. None of which were rock climbing.
After an hour, and several bench breaks, we arrived at the top. I was windless and tired. My mind rolled over my to do list back home and the emails I needed to reply to…and I really needed to finish that blog! My shirt was wet from sweat and my legs felt remarkably similar to noodles. As I crested the ridge, I appreciated the breeze…especially in a damp shirt.
Then I looked down into the valley below and smiled. I wanted to congratulate myself for not fainting on the way up, but the view took my breath away (at least what was left of it). There was my Creator’s handiwork in full view. The sun was starting to set and the river below snaked around the mountain. In the far distance, I saw a sailboat…like a pin head on the horizon. The sky was exploding into color and the breeze was perfect. Below, I saw the city…this city I had just came grumbling from. The same place that seemed so big, and scary, and overwhelming. Now it looked ridiculously small. I put my hand against the spot where I had previously been and it all fit in the palm of my hand.
How my perspective had changed. Quickly. In an hour of climbing. Suddenly…my to do list vanished. My swimming brain stilled. My heart was in awe. I couldn’t get over the sail boat. It was so tiny. Then, as if in a whisper, I felt a truth drop into my heart. “There’s my to do list,” I thought. When I am right up on it, it’s HUGE. But when I am with the Father, it’s a speck of nothing on the horizon.
As a child I always wondered what Christ meant when He said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) The way I saw it, with Christ came a rough road ahead. Worth it? Absolutely! It’s just that the promise of a lighter burden didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I didn’t see lighter loads. Since fully surrendering my life to Christ, I had a whole lot more on my plate. So what did Jesus mean by a “light burden” and an “easy yoke”?
It seemed, standing there on top of that mountain, I understood what He meant. He didn’t mean the problems would disappear. He meant that your perspective would be changed. On that mountain, I was lighter. My load seemed like nothing. Weightless. Was my to do list erased? No. In fact, I knew it was getting longer at home while I stood on Pinnacle Mountain. My perspective had changed. All those details that I had been stressing over? They were all a pin-head sailboat on the horizon compared to the wealth of God’s abilities. He doesn’t need me to run around with my head cut off. He doesn’t need me to complete His tasks…He chooses me and uses me for His glory. Big difference.
There I was 1,011 feet up in the air and all the dots were connecting for me. My problems aren’t big. My to do list isn’t impossible. My opportunities aren’t overwhelming. I make them that way. I blow them up into monstrous proportions and then God has to come along and deflate them when I am at my wits end. He calls me to climb a mountain…and then He points to my sailboat of a problem. It’s really not that big from up there. It’s actually very achievable. It fits under my pinky finger.
I know I stared for a long time into the valley that day, overwhelmed in a different way. This shrinking feeling washed over me. Freedom feels very light. In fact, it’s weightless. And for the first time in a long time, I felt weightless. It wasn’t my job to be frantic and coordinate perfection. It’s my job to climb the mountain and be obedient. He does the rest. Roll up my sleeves in diligence? YES. But not get in God’s way of planning and making all things beautiful IN HIS TIME.
The sun was setting and we had to leave the mountain top. To be honest, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stamp this image deep into my heart. Every river bend, every church steeple, every road and every sail boat. I wanted it etched in my memory. I wanted this new perspective never to fade. I wanted this mountain to change me.
How often do we allow the circumstances of life to rob us of our joy and sap us of energy? We blow up our problems and create bigger ones. However real they are, we must not let them rule our lives and steal our zest for living. That relationship that is crumbling…it IS painful, but it must not keep you in the valley. Climb up, dear friend! That test final that seems impossible? One rock at a time, sister…move steadily to the top and your perspective will change. Stay on the mountain top as long as you can and carve the things you see there in your heart forever. Dwell on His power. His majesty. HIM.
As I started down into the valley again, I thought a lot about what I had experienced on the mountain. I carried with me the realization that sometimes…amid the struggles in life…I just need to push the pause button and climb. I needed to MAKE time to climb. To be with Him and rest in His perspective.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I fully expect in my humanness to need another mountain climb again one day. Maybe even soon. We all need a visual reminder. When that moment comes again…I will climb. But for today…I am remembering that little pin head of a sail boat and praising God for His power over my problems, however big they may seem at the moment.
What is your perspective today? Climb a mountain. Climb a tree. Climb for perspective. Live in the Presence of the Father and remember that “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
Climb, sister, climb!
(Originally published May 19, 2015 on the Polished Cornerstones blog.)