Thursday, November 13, 2008

Life Is Worth the Effort


This photo was taken Saturday at the Open House we hosted on the campus of Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. As you can see, one of the attractions was a rock-climbing wall. Our kids at the Home absolutely loved it. One of our boys scaled the wall 38 times! I refrained from an attempt, however, out of the fear I would topple the thing over :-).
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You know, life is a lot like scaling a rock-climbing wall. Commitment/choice. Effort. Strategy/forward thinking. Concentration. Assistance. Exhaustion. Exhilaration. Failure. Success. All of these are involved in the rock-climbing experience and also with life.
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A lot of life is grounded around the choices and commitments we make and don't make. For some, even many, choices can be confounding, perhaps crippling. But, life cannot be taken for granted, we must place one foot in front of the other. Life isn't a conveyor belt. We can't sit around hoping life will come to us (in the form of a great paycheck, a hot date, a thrill of a lifetime, whatever our anticipation is centered on) . . . we have to take a step and go after it. When climbing a rock-wall, you must reach your arm up to a handhold and lift your foot up to a foothold and pull your body up; the apparatus isn't going to do the work for you. You must decide to go!
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Effort is certainly a component of life. Life is work. It doesn't come easy, even to those who seem to live on Easy Street. Life is a marathon (actually, a series of marathons); it is not a sprint; it is not a casual Sunday stroll. There will be some lulls along the way. Even moments where we can stop and smell the roses. But, there are gonna be some long, rough slugs as well. Moments (or, years!) when we're trudging up a 9% grade (on a good day!), with the wind howling around us and rain beating in our face. But, there is a summit, and then it is all down hill . . . that is, of course, until we hit the next hill! Yet, I'm told hat with age and maturity, life begins to level out to a more consistent plain. Hills and plateaus, even mountain ranges, remain, but or aptitude for life grows. Our efforts pay off.
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Life requires thought. Mindlessness leads nowhere (or, rather, to some serious pitfalls). Life doesn't come equipped with Autopilot, or cruise control, but with big signs, "Lots of Assembly Required," and "Proceed with Caution." Life is much easier and productive when we look ahead to the horizon (and beyond) and set out goal and then plot the course required to reach that goal. In scaling a rock-climbing wall proficiently, the climber looks above and finds the ideal handholds and footholds, she plots her course with a distinct strategy guiding her way.
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Pay attention! How many of life's travails could be avoided, or be made much-less destructive, if we simply paid attention to what we were doing, to our surroundings, to those around us, and to the course before us? Effort is not simply a matter of physical application and force, it is a lot of brain power, as well. Was it Lombardi that said, "Football is 90% mental"? Put "life" in the sentence, and it would be as true.
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Life is not lived in a vacuum, with merely ourselves and immediate surroundings. No, life is full myriad things, especially those people close and far. A rock climber rarely will set out on his own; to do so can often be suicidal. Someone is needed to hold the guide rope, to help plot the course, to share in the work of setting spikes and giving a helping hand. Life is best lived when in tandem or association with a partner or partners. After all, God Himself, our Creator, declared, "It is not good for man to be alone." Interconnectedness is a key to life.
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Life will be tiring, even exhausting at many points along the way, but there will also be ample exhilaration, when our weariness will drop away and newfound energy and excitement will rush over. Remember the exhilaration of scaling a high mountain--the course up filled with tightened muscles, thirst (and, in my case, heavy panting!)--and the moment of finally looking out from the peak onto the valley and plains far below. That's a lot like a new mother and father staring down at their beautiful new child in the moments following a very difficult pregnancy. Or, the proud parents applauding a son as he walks across the graduation stage following the many years of the awkwardness and challenges of raising a child.
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Success and failure. Failure and success. Life is filled with both. A rock climber is not always going to find the best hold. He may slip a time or two. H may even have to descent before a successful ascent can be mounted. Keep going. That's the key. Learn from mistakes. Observe the success of others. Try, and try again. Life is worth the effort.