Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Just Over That Hill

Have you ever come to a moment in your life where the problem you are presently dealing with seems insurmountable, or one of those "The sky is falling moments!" Often times, as we stare directly at a difficulty, we make it out to be more challenging than it proves to be in the long course. Often times, our perception is consumed by what is immediate and our thoughts are all about the dread of the moment.

For instance, a couple faces the challenge of a teenage son who has fallen into hardcore alcohol use. Today, it is hard for the dad and mom to see past the next few hours and days. Every time their son leaves the house, the questions start: "Who is my boy going to be with?" "What trouble will he get himself into?" And, at every sound of a siren, how can they not think about their boy.

Consider the family facing foreclosure on their home. Where will they go? Will they have a roof over their heads? Will they be able to dig themselves out of this pit?

Often times, we allow the anxieties of today to weigh us down to the point of despair. But, isn't there always a peak, that moment when we conquer today's difficulty and look out on a better tomorrow? And, don't we usually look back at what we have overcome and fell blessed at the strength we displayed in overcoming and the strength that will prepare us for future difficulties. What we have overcome cannot help but make us stronger, if our eyes are always looking ahead.

Consider the photo posted above. I took the picture on Monday. It is of a hill (or, mountain for you in Texas!) that stands a few miles south of the south rim of the Grand Canyon. If we allowed the image of that hill to fill our sight, to dominate our perspective, we might worry about how we can climb it and move past it. But, look to the right of the hill. What do you see. Isn't there another peak in view? Indeed what is seen in the distance is a mountain, the tallest peak in all of Arizona. From the perspective of the photo, the mountain and the hill are of approximate size and height. But, in reality Humphreys Peak stands several thousand feet taller than the hill.

There is a lesson in the photo. Again, our perspective is often dominated by the present, and problems that we experience today are allowed to weigh us down. What we forget, is that the troubles we face today may be overshadowed by what is to come. Perhaps a wiser way of living is to allow the difficulties of today to prepare us for what is to come, to live life with the perspective of learning and growing, becoming ever more ready to face the trials that will come our way. Isn't that the life of optimism? In a sense, that is what I hear James saying as he wrote, "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1.2-4 NRSV).

There is another observation about the photo, however. There are many who rush headlong into life, fearing nothing, hesitating over nothing, having no restraint. Some of this mindset is admirable, and even healthy and productive, but too much of it can lead a person into much trouble. Take for instance the man who would see the hill and dismiss it as nothing, charging toward it to get to the mountain behind it. But, what this man often forgets is the deep chasm that lies in front of the hill. What appears from the outset as a simple trek to the top of the hill and beyond becomes rather quickly and surprisingly an arduous trek into the depths of a canyon before an assault on the hill can be undertaken.

So, could we say the optimistic mindset is also one of thoughtful resolve?