This summer I went on what I was calling “a trip of a lifetime,” but since getting back, I want to adjust that… because it infers that it’ll only happen once. I’ve walked away from the trip with a lot more that a few pictures to share with social media. My two younger brothers and I climbed to the top of two volcanos. We slid down the backside of one, which was fun, but the life lessons I learned while climbing our second volcano is what I want to unpack.
Maderas is one of two volcanos on Ometepe Island. The island is situated in the middle of the largest lake in Central America. It took us a full nine hours to climb 4573 feet, enjoy the small lake at the top, and descend back to the bottom. During the day I couldn’t help but be inundated with lessons I was learning. Many of which have a practical application without the need to go climb a volcano. (Although I’d highly recommend it)
Beauty from ashes – it takes time.
This volcano was one of the most beautiful places I had personally been. It was rich with greenery and life. So much so that often times we couldn’t see the path and had to rely on a guide. (That sentence alone could be a life lesson, but I’ll stay on topic). I was struck by the fact that at one time this place was covered with nothing more than lava and ashes. It probably looked unattractive and desolate. The thing to be aware of is that it hasn’t erupted for over 3,000 years, so time has given it a chance to heal. Not only that, but the volcanic soil is some of the most nutrient-rich soil in the world. God literally setup the land to heal its self!
How does this apply to our lives? Beauty from ashes, while biblically accurate (Isiah 61:3), takes time to see form in our lives. That transformation doesn’t happen overnight. We see it in countless testimonies. People that are willing to walk out of their “ashes” and into wholeness often have to commit to a process of learning how to embrace a healthy reality.
The rich soil connection. The very thing that causes us pain or discounts our voice in life is often the very thing that God uses to make our lives far more beautiful than we could ever imagine. Also, when we’re willing to go on a journey of letting God heal us, we become fertile soil for Him to plant His goodness. This can come in the form of favor, relationships, opportunities, depth of love we encounter with Him, and the list goes on.
The need to challenge and stretch what you think is possible.
I have been out of shape the last several years. I could give 100 reasons/excuses why, but the reality is that I haven’t been very physically active in quite some time, to the point where I almost backed out of the hike because I wasn’t sure if I could make it. (Yes, I was a Marine and know how to push myself… but I had lost sight of that reality). Not only that, but when we first started I got winded, started sweating, and some old military injuries tried to convince me that I had made a mistake. To be honest, I didn’t think I had enough gas in the tank to make it to the top and back.
About a quarter of the way up we stopped for a brief rest. This is where I took this picture. I almost missed that stunning view because we had to turn right and hike an extra 5 minutes to see it. I’m glad to say that I pushed through. From that point on I simply removed quitting as an option. When I wanted to stop, I reminded myself of what I almost missed out on. Not only that but once we were about half way up I caught a second wind. I was able to keep going and finish what I started.
“You’ll never grow if you don’t intentionally put yourself in situations that challenge what you think you’re capable of.”
Focus on one step at a time.
This is how I got to the top. There were times that I was in pain, that I didn’t think I could go on, and I couldn’t see the beauty of the lake that was waiting for me. All I could do was focus on the next step. I was relying on a guide for direction, and my responsibility was to place one foot in front of the other. It didn’t matter what I couldn’t see. When I chose to put my attention on taking one step after another, it removed the daunting task of climbing to the top. I was able to enjoy the beauty more and take in all of what I was experiencing.
The beautiful thing is that we have a guide in life. The Holy Spirit coupled with the Word of God gives us the option to be less distracted or overwhelmed with the summit and frees our ability to focus on one step at a time. Psalms 119:105 ‘Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path’. Sometimes all we get is enough light to know our next step. When that happens, the worst thing you can do is try to put together a five-year plan. Sometimes you need to lean into the experience of your guide, the Holy Spirit, find comfort in knowing that He will never set you up for failure and take your next step.
It’s hard to see the payoff in the moments we experience pain or discomfort.
While I was climbing, it was actually impossible to see the payoff. It’s sad how many of us spend a significant chunk of our emotional energy running from discomfort and pain when the reality is that those are the very things that lead us to accomplishments and growth. Often we aren’t able to see the value or believe that there is a “reward for the pain” so we fight to avoid it at all costs.
My next post will continue this list of life lessons. Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ones I listed today. Feel free to leave a comment and give feedback. I read each one.