There are boxes of photos all over my house waiting to be dealt with. Once I started working outside the home, then started back to school, I abandoned all thoughts of scrap-booking in the midst of its popularity. Photo boxes for each of the kids with their memorabilia, copies of photos I have on hand and a CD of scanned photos of interest sounds like a good alternative plan to me. Now that I am unemployed, I have some time on my hands. In the process of applying for jobs, interviewing, re-framing rejection emails into the not a good fit but qualified category, I decided to clean and organize the house, my all time stress reliever. Within my photo menagerie I find myself confronted with the reality that half of our vacation photos we produced over the years were full size panoramic photos. Panoramic photos don’t fit into photo boxes. With this realization comes the feeling of being over whelmed. Do I plunge onward with this task while I still can? One of unemployment’s benefits it the gift of time. Can I get my house in order before I head back into a full work/school schedule?
I don’t know.
At the bottom of the box marked 2003 I find about a half a dozen envelops of panoramic photos of the Grand Canyon. I sit and look at them and remember the lessons that hiking the canyon taught me. The lessons stir something up in me, renewing my strength for the journey I am in at the moment; unemployed, finishing out my last semester of school, watching my financial resources dwindle. I am making decisions each week without knowing most of the answers. How do I intelligently handle my affairs while waiting to return to work and not knowing when or how or what my actions today will mean in terms of my tomorrow?
I am convinced my Heavenly Father is kind and compassionate, wanting only my ultimate good. I sincerely believe the things He is teaching me are so valuable that they are worth any struggle I might endure. I am given new insight into the appreciation of the word excruciating. The memories of the summer of 2003 when our family hiked six miles down into the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and six miles, 3,000 feet back up the canyon wall return to me clearly. It took us ten hours to hike the canyon. As I reflect on our hike, I remember what the Lord tried to teach me then.
First of all, nothing could have prepared us for the endurance it would take to hike the canyon. Oh yes, we did all the right things. We walked almost daily for months before hand. We broke in our shoes, brought the right kind of food and equipment. We had plenty of water. We didn’t expect the descent to be so treacherous. It took a great deal of attention to where we were stepping as we descended. The path often overlooked a very steep drop off. Those parts of the hike became a time to confront our fears. It was a long way to fall and we were careful not to slip.
I believe you can prepare yourself for life’s challenges, gather the right materials, save your emergency savings, get the right training, have the right connections, but there will be a time when you realize how unprepared you really are for life. The pink slip and the ride down the elevator after you have packed up your belonging and are escorted to the lobby without getting to say good-bye to any of your friends is one trippy ride. Unemployment is a time to overcome fears and to let God supply you with what you need. It is a time to understand your inadequacies, so you can depend on His sufficiency.
To get up and down the canyon wall you have to take what are called “switch backs”. The trail descends for about 100 yards, then it turns back on itself and descend another 100 yards. As you make your way back up the trail, you realize you can only see so far above you. It’s impossible to see much beyond the next turn. Worst of all, on your way back up, those switch backs seem to go on endlessly.
To meet life’s challenges you need a heart that is willing to change directions often, to accept not being able to see too far ahead, but to continue on anyway listening to the voice of God.
As we began our ascent up the canyon the temperature at the bottom was near 100 degrees and there was little shade. Trying to push too hard I quickly found myself near exhaustion. I knew I was in trouble when I could barely lift my legs and I began to shiver. What I needed was to find my pace. I began to take breaks often; breaks to catch my breath, breaks to cool my body down, breaks to rest my muscle, and breaks to eat and drink. What I discovered was when I found my pace I began to travel with fellow hikers whose pace was consistent with mine. There was a group of us who made our way upward together.
In the midst of life’s challenges there is no room for pushing ahead of what we are asked to do, we’ll only wear ourselves out. Progress can be slow, but as we find our pace and relax in the journey we discover we are traveling with others on this pathway. They are there to reassure and encourage us. They help us realize we are not falling behind, but making progress.
This all this sounds too difficult, overwhelming or even depressing?
Then you need to remember what I was reminded of as I lifted dozens of panoramic photos out of their envelopes. The best part of hiking the canyon is the view. There’s nothing like the Grand Canyon up close. Just like when we scale the walls of difficulties with our God there is something gained; we get a greater glimpse of Him.
Each new perspective, each new turn in the pathway up the canyon wall makes every step worthwhile. There is a reason they call it the Grand Canyon, it’s awfully big and so is our God. There was something about being there that makes you so aware of the Creator.
So that day as I looked at the view, I was reminded of Psalm 19. My heart cried out, “This canyon is telling of the glory of the Lord, its expanse is declaring the works of His hands.” NIV
The canyon makes you feel very small and insignificant. The scriptures express this same feeling when it speaks of our relationship to God. “O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him?Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.”Psalm 144:4 NIV
This understanding that we aren’t as important as we think we are produces the humble heart that God so desires for us and shows us how big our God is. He cares for us. He is bigger than my unemployment. He is more interested in me learning to trust Him when I don’t see all that He sees, than sharing all the answers before His time. The easy answers don’t come because He wants me to enjoy the view as He strengthens me on the path before me. He is preparing me to enjoy the fruits of my labor, my earnestly striving to find my place in this life. When I finally came to rest at the top of the canyon wall I knew the joy of enduring hardship and overcoming. In His strength I am an over-comer in life too. To the One who created me to be my very best, that is priceless.