Have you every stood on a mountain and simply looked around? Consciously letting go of all the worries that threaten to overtake you? Simply standing and drinking in the stunning view that lies before you? Allowing your cares to melt away and losing yourself in the panoramic majesty all around you? Realizing how incredible our world is?
Have you ever stood in the valley, with the lush green grass all around you? Gazing at the wildflowers that grow in abundance? Strolling along a pathway carpeted with lush greenness and yet lifting your eyes to drink in the majesty of the mountain peaks soaring high above?
This imagery of mountains and valleys has kept coming up in my mind over and over recently. How life feels like a series of mountains and valleys, of tight ridges and wide, open spaces.
Right now, it doesn’t even feel like a valley. You see, when most people think of a valley, they think of some place dark and obscure, some place that is to be avoided at all costs. Yet, valleys are not always dire and scary places. Valleys are a lower point – some more than others – but in a good many valleys, there seems to be a sure footing. A place to go. A place to walk. A green meadow to walk through. A wide open space.
Right now feels more like a ridge…
A space high in the mountains…
A path that hugs the mountain tight on one side while making a hairpin turn around the mountain…
A path that is carved into the mountain itself with a steep drop off down that same mountain on the other side…
A ridge is a place where your options are very limited. Your path is laid out for you. There is no turning to the right or to the left. The option to go back is simply not there. And so the only options that you have are to freeze in place or move forward on the only path laid out for you.
Hidden from View
All this musing about mountains and valley and ridges reminds me of our family vacation last fall. We went to the Blue Ridge Mountains to enjoy watching the leaves turn and the majesty of the mountains. One evening, we went on a quest for a sunset photo. (You can read all about that part of the adventure here.)
As we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the daylight, we passed sweeping views of the mountains, we crossed over bridges, and we drove along ridges that hugged the mountain on one side while dropping off steeply to the other (thankfully with a guard rail in place!). In the daylight, this was thrilling! It was beautiful to watch the mountains and the brilliant fall colors sweep by on either side of us. To bask in the views as we drove past. To feel at home and a part of something bigger than ourselves.
We drove further and further from our cabin to find the beautiful sunset photo that we were looking for – and thankfully we did find it! But then it came time for us to drive back…
And the sun was setting…
At first, a bit of daylight lingered, so the road was still fairly easy to see, especially with the aid of headlights. But the longer we drove, the more the sun dipped down below the horizon.
The more the darkness of the mountains closed in.
The more the trees obscured our view of the stars.
There was this comforting feeling that settled over me as the darkness fell and yet at the same time, it was mixed with an odd feeling. You see, I had total confidence in my husband’s driving abilities. I had total confidence that there would be a road underneath the tires of our vehicle. I had total confidence that this road would stretch all the way back to our cabin. After all, we had driven this stretch of road many times on this trip alone.
Yet, the odd feeling settled over me as I started remembering the things that we had driven past on our way out. Oh, it wasn’t so much realizing that we would miss seeing all the stunning, sweeping mountains views that were now completely hidden by the darkness.
It was knowing about the ridges. Knowing that there were deep valleys just off the road. Knowing that huge drop-offs existed within feet, sometimes mere inches from the road, but not being able to see any of them that gave me that odd feeling.
Conversations Through the Mist
As I sat in the passenger seat helping my husband watch for deer, I started thinking of Shasta’s ride through the mountain pass in C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Horse and His Boy.’ Shasta, who had been riding with a hunting patry, suddenly becomes separated from the group in a thick fog. Not knowing what to do, he continues moving forward through the night and through the misty fog. As he rides along this unknown path to an unknown place, he has a conversation with “The Thing” – not having a clue who he was talking with.
It is only later that Shasta realizes that all through that night, when he felt the loneliest he had ever felt in his life, when he felt like the entire world had forgotten him, when he felt like he was the unluckiest boy ever to live, he was talking with Aslan. Aslan, the creator of Narnia. Aslan, the Great Lion. Aslan, the king of the wood.
This conversation always struck me as one of the most tender conversations in the Chronicles of Narnia. And yet at the same time, it was filled with tough love – presented as only Aslan can say it, in the most deeply provoking, tender way possible.
It was only once the sun had risen and the fog had given way to the morning sun that Shasta saw the path he had been traveling: A mountain pass with a steep drop-off at his side. Yet, Aslan had been walking right along that drop off as he talked with Shasta. Shielding him. Protecting him. Being a living guard rail against harm. Guarding him against dangers unknown.
That word picture has really resonated with me recently. Right now, it feels like we are walking along a ridge, not knowing what is coming next, enveloped – just like Shasta – in a thick swirl of fog so that we cannot truly see the next step clearly.
Sometimes the only thing you know to do is to keep moving forward. To do the next right thing, difficult as it may be to keep moving. If you stop, you get stuck and there is no hope of progress being made.
So where are you at, my Friend? Are you feeling like you’re on the mountain? Or are you in the valley? Are you walking a ridge? Or maybe you’re walking a swinging bridge between two mountains…
No matter where you are. No matter what you’re going through, remember these three things:
#1 :: You do not have to go it alone.
Reach out to the people around you. Tell them what’s going on in your life. Ask for their help and support. Sometimes just having a conversation, knowing that you have friends that care about you and will walk with you on whatever road you are currently traveling makes all the difference in the world.
#2 :: Progress is better than perfection.
The worst things you can do is stop moving all together. Yes, so many times taking the next step is extremely hard. Yes, sometimes it is all you can do to figure out what that next step is and do it. But remember, progress is better than perfection. Focus on doing the next right thing – one small step at a time. With each small step you move forward and make progress. Even small steps propel you in the right direction!
# 3 :: This is a season.
No season of life lasts forever. Even though it may not feel like it, the seasons of life will change once more. There is no denying that there are many seasons of life that are extremely hard, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, or a combination of these. Even though it feels like a season will never end when you are in the middle of it, there will be a changing of the seasons. Be patient. Keep the perspective that this is a season and remember to take those small steps forward.
Mountains ridges can be scary. Truly, they can be downright terrifying at times. But yet they do not have to paralyze you. There are deep and meaningful lessons that can be learned along the ridges of life. The question becomes whether you will choose to wallow in despair or choose to take the next step and learn all the lessons that you can from this challenging season.
What will you choose?
- It Takes Teamwork to Chase Sunsets
- The World of Narnia and the Lessons to be Learned There
- The Changing of the Seasons of Life
- Finding Perspective When You Feel You Have None
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.