Prologue from part 1 and part 2:
I am not a hiker. And though I appreciate the beauty of green and flowering things from behind the glass of a window, I’m not even really that fond of being outdoors. So I was surprised to discover that the image that came to me year after year as an analogy to describe my life, was a mountain. Complete with hiking trails.
The last time the mountain imagery came to mind I was at a major crossroads in my life instead of my ministry. Well, it had something to do with my ministry in that I was considering leaving it.
Finances was a major part of it. I fundraised my salary, but I wasn’t very good at it, so I’d only raised enough money to be able to work part time, without benefits. I lived month to month, and went into significant credit card debt every time there was a sudden necessity, like repairs needed on my car or unexpected medical bills.
For many years I told myself that in order to obtain financial stability, I just needed to try harder at fundraising. It was the painful suffering I just needed to get through, much like trekking straight up the thistle and rattlesnake-infested mountainside from part 2. But as I contemplated this imagery again (after 7 years of it being dormant), something new began to emerge. The new scene took me away from the harsh, unsheltered uphill climb, and toward a gently-sloped paved road under the shade of trees and winding slowly up and around the mountain. It was a leisurely walk, still uphill but without the blood, sweat, and tears of the previous seven years.
And it seemed to suggest that there was nothing wrong with choosing a path with less suffering, particularly less financial suffering. And it seemed to suggest that I do just that. I was resistant to that suggestion. It made me feel guilty for considering abandoning my fellow travelers, lazy for not trying hard enough like they were, nervous about choosing an unknown path that surely couldn’t be as nice as it seemed, and afraid they’d judge me for choosing out of the suffering they kept choosing into.
But the more I contemplated the gentle path, the more I felt that God was inviting me to follow him in a deeper way that wasn’t possible for me if I remained on that path of hardship:
- healing from the wounds I hadn’t quite recovered from
- letting go of my superiority and inferiority complexes
- softening parts of my heart that had become hardened
- redirecting my energies into my strengths instead of my weaknesses which would produce much more good in the world
- earning more money and therefore being able to give more money to the causes I find worthy
Learning to depend on God from a position of plenty would look quite different from learning to depend on him from a position of scarcity. The bible passages God brought to mind in this season had more to do with enjoying God’s material blessings, something I’d conveniently ignored when I had so single-mindedly pursued suffering. With my particular background, enjoying those material blessings would require more discipline on my part than did my over-glorified poverty.
I find it interesting that the same mountain that invited me into ministry also invited me to leave it. It wasn’t in the sense of cashing in a reward for years of sacrifice and suffering. It was more like God offering to draw me close to him in a new way because the previous way had run its course. And I think that’s how God works sometimes: finding new ways in new seasons of life to connect with you and I.
May you be blessed with the courage, the fortitude, the passion, and whatever else is needed to walk the path God has for you, whether it’s straight up the side of a mountain, a slow meandering road, or anything in between. And may you sense him walking alongside you every step of the way.
photo by Mike Tanase from Pexels