You might have noticed that we have been out adventuring more and heading for the great outdoors lately. While we are great advocates for just being in the great outdoors… we have started to stretch ourselves with hikes that are slightly more effort than an amble, nothing gruelling mind you. I can tell you that some of our kids dive in with gusto… they just can’t get enough of it and the bigger and more tricky the task is, so some of us enjoy it a whole lot more. But during each and every epic day out there is a time when our hearts sink. Not all at once, but all most all of us take a turn at “I’ve just had enough.” A time when we think we just can’t go any further… when the hill is too steep, when we need a snack right now, else we could literally die. It might sound dramatic but there is a little voice that sits on our shoulder and says “You just just can’t do anymore.”
All this in the great outdoors, but what about in every day life… that next pile of dishes, one more errand, the pile of ever expanding neglected school work and that feeling that “I just can’t do it all.” I know I am not alone when I say, there is a very negative voice on my shoulder, and worse I often engage it:
The voice says, “You just can’t do another thing.”
And we reply, “I know, I am so tired…”
And the voice replies, “Yes, you have been up since before dawn and you went to bed late… and you have so many other things to do…”
And I reply, “Tell me about it, I really need a break… just ten minutes of space and I’ll be fine…”
And then someone needs you for something, help with their math, a little person in the bathroom, the milk jug spilt on the kitchen floor…
And the voice says, “See you are never going to get a break…”
Some lessons just can’t be learnt at a desk… but in the great outdoors, I realise that we are learning to conquer those inner voices. At home we are far more able to spoil ourselves, get a little reward for doing all the dishes, as if doing the dishes is a challenge. Our lives get easier and easier, what with appliances and older kids to help out and when the going gets tough… we can always just put off those things we can’t face getting done and tell ourselves that we are too tired, too emotional, too something. At home it is so much easier to take that “well-earned break” even before we do the task we don’t feel like doing. While there is nothing wrong with taking a break, I know for myself that little break often becomes more time to talk myself deeper into the pit of “I can’t.” This conversation can to and fro and to and fro and the next thing you know you have been taken “out of play,” you really feel that you cannot do one more task, or climb one more hill. When really you can… it’s actually just a hill not Mt. Kilimanjaro.
We live in a culture of instant happiness and comfort seeking… no-one is telling us to “buck up” get on with it.” When you are struggling with something we are taught to back away from the problem, find a quick fix, an appliance can do that job for you… or pay someone else to do the dirty work… “remember you really need a break.” A couple of weeks back on a particularly tricky hike, one member of the team started the “I just can’t ritual…” and you know when everyone is working hard and one negative voice pipes up… before you know it… everyone can go plummeting down. Before you know it we all think we can’t go on and we need emergency evacuation to get home in time for dinner. This is not actually a matter of life and death guys, yes some of us may have a penchant for the dramatic (!)… it is just getting over the next hill before sundown, in about two hours time!!!
So we decided to stop and address those little voices in our head once and for all… Take a peak at 1 Kings 19:12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. In I Kings chapter 19 we find Elijah in a pretty grumpy mood, those little voices in his head had been having a field day… in fact he says, “I have had enough, Lord.” Those miserable voices in his head were replaced by a gentle whisper. The angel of the Lord encouraged Elijah… and he is strengthened enough to continue. In Matthew 7:10-11 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Turns out Our Father in Heaven will replace those negative voices with a gentle whisper of encouragement, even when we are in despair… turns out when you are out in the mountains and the going gets tough it is a question of faith rather than stamina that gets you through to the finish line, not to mention over that last hill.