Of Desert Hills and Decisions
Avoid hollow victories by bringing God into your plans

by Michele Howe

In the middle of winter while hiking with my parents, we walked, climbed and stumbled through the mountainous desert hills of Arizona. From every vantage point we could see small mountains covered with an array of desert flowers in early bloom, and rocks of every color, style and assortment. After walking the ravines for a time, I set my sights higher.

Spurred on by the untamed surroundings, I began hiking to the top of one rather imposing hill. I urged my Dad to climb with me. "From up there, I'm sure we'll be able to see everywhere," I told him, and he agreed to join me. Surely, from that high point our vision would be unimpaired, granting us the clearest and best of views.

Laboring our way upward, we picked our way through loose stones and stubble. Not wanting to miss a single perspective, we often turned back to pause, catch our breath, and comment on how far we'd come. Peeling off our jackets, we wiped our brows and made a final turn. We'd done it. Beautiful! From the bottom, faithful Mom took our picture and called up her congratulations.

All too soon we had to begin laboring our way back down. Anyone who has climbed knows that while getting to the top can be a challenge, getting back down can be treacherous. We often paused to measure our next step, gingerly placing each foot to test the rock stability. More than once, it appeared we were going down...way down...way too fast.

Muttering about the wisdom of such a climb, we eventually took that last tenuous step unto rock solid heaven. Getting back to the ravine took twice as long as the climb upward.

Hollow Victories

As we continued our walk that afternoon, I reflected about other times I'd ambitiously climbed upwards, only to discover neither beauty nor accomplishment awaited me. I had forged ahead, oblivious to the dangers and unconcerned about those I might cause to stumble along the way. Determined to go my own way, I closed the door to other options. My victory walk became a beleaguered attempt to convince myself that winning was the only important thing.

One step, one decision at a time carves us into who we are and who we will become. How hollow victory is when we have given everything in the effort to prevail, but in the process of climbing we leave behind a trail of wounded relationships and other debris. True strength and real accomplishment come not only in reaching the top, but in also ensuring we don't lose ourselves on the journey.

Rest in God

We may not know what is on the other side of the next hill. We may not be able to predict what lies at the bottom of the hill we're celebrating on right now. Those old familiar Bible words echo, "Be still and know that I am God." Be still? Yes. Quietly, purposefully, make it so. Rest in the knowledge that God is bigger than our plans and designs.

In knowing that God cares, we can better evaluate our tomorrows. With Him in the formula, life becomes more than trudging up one hill after another. In time, we learn to measure the repercussions awaiting us on the trip back down...before we take the first step upward.

Urgency gives way to restful calm. Immediacy gives way to appreciation. Purpose and fulfillment is finally, truly discovered in recognizing our part in life's grand scheme.

Michele Howe is a freelance writer living in LaSalle, Michigan with her husband and four children. She is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly, CBA Marketplace, and CCM Magazine. Howe has published over 700 articles and reviews and is the author of eight books including, "Prayers to Nourish a Woman's Heart" and "Prayers for Homeschool Moms" (publication date: spring, 2003). These books can be ordered online by clicking on the links above (via Amazon.com).

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