Today I had the fantastic idea of taking our family on a hike.
The whole way to our destination was uphill...and not just small hills, but the kinds of hills that are so steep they take you up 200-300 feet higher in elevation in a matter of 100 steps...and it didn't help that the lack of shade made us feel as though the sun was within an arm's length away.
The kids complained the entire way...I couldn't blame them, with sweat dripping in places on my body I didn't even know sweated, I was hating it too...but I knew where we were headed.
I knew that despite the hellish heat, the grueling hills, and the lack of shade, our destination was worth the sweat dripping down our backs.
Because I knew where we were headed, I was able to enjoy the occasional cool breeze coming off the ocean we were headed toward, but couldn't see.
Because I knew how far we had to go, I was able to take sips of the water in my camelback with thanksgiving because I knew we had enough water for all of us during our hike.
Because I knew what to expect at the end of the road, I was able to notice the deep blue sky, the weeds in bloom, and the gentle wisps of cotton floating in the breeze.
My kids couldn't.
All they saw was the bone-dead brush for miles around, the steep hills we had to climb, and the oven-like heat from the sun beating down on us.
They couldn't see past their misery, so all they did was complain.
When we finally arrived on top of the hill that overlooked the bay, we stopped, finally able to rest. From our vantage point, we could see the ocean drop off miles away into its abyss, the sailboats zipping along in the breezes they caught, and the world below us mesmerized in its own rhythm as we watched from our mountain-top-like view.
It was beautiful.
In the same way, God so often leads us on our own journeys that are hard, grueling, hot, and maybe even a bit hellish. Often these journeys take us to the hidden parts inside of ourselves, where it's painful, uncomfortable, and ugly.
The best part is that He knows exactly where He's taking us.
He's taking us to the places we have hidden away from ourselves and others because He knows we cannot become who He's created us to be without uncovering those hidden places.
He knows that through this journey inward we will discover our true self hidden underneath our shame, the lies we've told ourselves, and the pain others have inflicted upon us.
He knows that as we discover our true selves, we will find the wholeness, peace, and forgiveness only He brings, which brings us closer to who He created us to be.
In this often messy process, we can choose to complain, get angry, and refuse to go on...or we can trust that He has our best interest at heart.
It is in the trust that we can begin to feel the cooling ocean breeze.
It is in the surrender that we can take our eyes off our misery and see the beauty He has provided for us to enjoy.
It is in the letting go that we can know that God is walking the journey with us, providing our water, providing our energy, providing our peace.
The hike was hard... but it was worth it.