By Susan Shannon
I used to live in Colorado, and I loved hiking in the mountains. On a clear day, when you are far away from a mountain, you can see the snow-covered peak and marvel at its beauty.
Of course, at a distance, you don’t know what is exactly on the other side of that mountain. You can only see the picture as a whole. The inexperienced climber can imagine the thrill of standing at the top, looking out across the mountain range. The details of the struggles involved in climbing aren’t readily considered. But if you are climbing that rugged trail up the side of that mountain, it can be exhausting, even dangerous, and it can be easy to lose sight of the whole picture because you are in the midst of the nitty-gritty of it all.
As you begin the climb, first there’s the monotony of all the trees at the lower altitude where it can be safe. Yet you can’t see where you’ve been, and you can’t see very far ahead up the trail. Tree branches and s-curves obscure your view of what might be a difficult ascent. You just keep walking. As you hike farther, the terrain begins to change: there are fewer trees, there might be loose gravel, and you can slip and fall. Sometimes there are boulders that obstruct your path and you have to find a way around them; or the walls of rock seem perilous to climb. Just trees and rocks as far as you can see. Sometimes you wonder if you’ll make it.
A wise hiker never travels alone but takes a companion to help navigate the way and to give encouragement. “Come on, you can do it!” It can seem like plodding along, just putting one foot in front of the other. At higher altitudes, the air can hurt the lungs with each breath. Slowing down to acclimate becomes a necessity.
A wise hiker takes time to pause, rest and refresh, and smell the invigorating, clean mountain air. A wise hiker will also take the time to appreciate any flowers along the way like the beautiful columbine or the perky little tundra flowers.
You’ll wonder in amazement, “How can those beautiful little flowers grow out of rock?”
After many hours of weary hiking and resting, hiking and resting, you finally reach the top and look out across the vast expanse of hundreds of miles, and you realize you are now part of that picture you saw at the beginning. It is amazing. It is breathtaking. You think back to all the struggles you encountered on the way to the top; some may have been mind-numbing, exhausting, even harrowing. But somehow all the struggles seem worth it as you gaze in awe and wonder with a fresh appreciation of a new beauty that surpasses all expectations.
Climbing that mountain is a lot like parenting. As an expectant mother, it’s easy to make plans for a wonderful baby who will most assuredly sleep through the night on your schedule and never have a serious illness. The child will be a good student with few challenges and will have a teenaged life full of good decisions in preparation for an adulthood of citizenry that contributes well to society.
In reality, life with a baby can seem monotonous with all the sleepless nights and diaper changes. You can’t recall the last day you had to yourself. But you walk on. You soon learn the plans made pre-parent were perhaps naïve. You can’t see what life holds in the future because of the sudden curves life throws at you. You wonder what will be around the next bend.
Sometimes you become weary and discouraged. You wonder if the scenery of this stage in life will ever change. Perhaps there are boulders in your life that you had not planned on, and the rock walls seem impossible to climb.
Sometimes it seems you are just plodding along, going from one day to the next, and you wonder if you’ll make it. Sometimes those days seem slow because you have to acclimate to hurt or great disappointment.
But if you are wise, you will take companions with you on your parenting journey. You will talk with other moms to give and receive encouragement. “Come on, you can do it! You are not alone!” Don’t forget that there is a company of moms who are all on the same journey. Some are ahead and can encourage you because they’ve been there, done that. They can see what you cannot. At the same time, others are facing the same obstacles as you, weary, and perhaps bewildered, but offering hope because, “Together we can do this!” And with each word of encouragement, you can take another step to your destination.
Wisely you will take the time to notice the flowers along the way—those precious times of playing on the floor with your kids, building a fort, playing dolls, reading a book together for the 100th time, going to games, chauffeuring to activities, listening to broken hearts, giving love and forgiveness, modeling the love of Jesus.
And the time will come when you’ll wonder, “How did those kids grow out of that rock?”
A wise mom will take the time to rest and refresh, knowing true rest and refreshment comes in spending time with the Lord. She will understand what God said as recorded in Jeremiah 31:25: “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” He is the one who will give true rest to your soul. He will give you the peace others might not understand. He will lead when the obstacles seem insurmountable. His words can be trusted: “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them” (Isaiah 42:16).
While the journey of motherhood never really ends, it can come to a place where you can look back and recall all the struggles through the years and you can see how God worked in ways to encourage, guide, and bless you. Somehow the struggles seem worth it. You can be filled with awe and wonder with a fresh appreciation of a beauty you could have never imagined—beauty that surpasses all expectations.
Susan Shannon is a wife, mother of four grown children, grandmother, teacher of adults, and mentor to teen moms.