The below picture was actually taken as a joke a few weeks ago while exploring an old resort site in the Elkmont area of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
What you don’t see are my two friends hiding behind the stairs…waiting to photo bomb my picture.
Last evening, going through the pictures I have taken over the past year, I came across this one, and I suddenly became very reflective. You see not long ago my life was just like this picture. I was sitting on a staircase headed nowhere. I had zero direction, ambition, or determination. I was stuck, with no destination up head.
Oh what a difference a year makes.
Yesterday, I finally celebrated hiking 500 miles in a year, by going to pick up my 500 mile pin.
Wanting to share my joy, I posted a picture on my favorite Hiking Group’s (Hike The Smokies) Facebook page. Instantaneously, I was bombarded with accolades, well wishes, and messages from fellow members who were inspired.
Now of course all the praise was nice and endearing, but it was also not all that deserved. You see, I didn’t set or break any Record, I did nothing that required any special skill, and I did not achieve anything that any average person could not accomplish.
Albert Einstein said it best, “I have no special talents, I am just passionately curious.”
A year ago, I was curious to see if I could hike 100 miles in a year. I am not an athlete or even fit. I hate being hot, and uncomfortable. My two best friends are my sofa, and the stash of Little Debbie cakes I constantly keep on hand. If something is too hard, I tend to whine about it and pitch a stereo-typical redheaded tantrum.
How does that sound for inspiration?
Several times along the way I desperately wanted to stop. Hiking, while thrilling and exhilarating, is also freaking hard. Not hard in you need a special set of skills, but hard in you have to will yourself to carry on. The climb is relentless and you feel like you want to die. The below cartoon depicts accurately how most of my hikes go.
But what made my success was NOTHING special. It was no certain physical skill, no particular piece of gear, no brand of shoe, trekking pole, or backpack. What caused my success was something we all have within us,but don’t always use.
I decided to use my determination to get me places. Before when a task was hard, or seemed impossible, I just quit. The determination I had deep inside of me was never allowed to do it’s job. It just sat there…. unused and losing strength.
If you know me, you know I am a quote nerd. I can find a quote or a Bible verse for ANY occasion. What you may not know is that before each and every hike, I pick a quote, convert it to memory, and repeat it continually throughout my day. Sometimes I am utterly amazed at how fitting the quote or verse I have chosen that day is for that particular hike.
One of my most favorite is a quote from Thomas Edison. It has actually become the theme to my journey this past year……
“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this….you haven’t.”
How many times do we simply just poop out? We quit before we even get to the finish line. It is just way easier to say, “I tried” ,and not finish ,than to actually keep trudging on ahead. I mean, surely God did not intend for me to die of exhaustion and frustration on a mountain right? He wants me to do only do what I can and quit if it gets too hard.
But I think we often underestimate ourselves. It is so easy to say, “Oh well, I gave it the ole college try. Maybe next time.” Somewhere within us, we think we have a limit on what we can do.
I remember during my teaching days when my students would whine to me, “I can’t!” “I have done all I can do?” But I knew that wasn’t the truth. They had only worked to the frustration point…. they hadn’t dared go past it.
Each time I want to quit I think of those words of Edison. “Have I really given it my all? Do I have anything else in the tank? Well….I’m still breathing, and my legs although like jelly, are still holding me up, so maybe, I have something left to give.” So I would push on a little further.
There were times, and still are, that I am sure I am getting ready to die. I can hear my heart pounding, feel my legs filling with lead, and know every ounce of oxygen I have is oozing out of me. But I forge on.
Does that make me special?
That makes me determined.
And that is not something that is just available to me. Inside you my friend, lives that same determination. It may have been a while since you used it, and it may be down deep, but I promise it is there.
Longing to be used.
Yes, I hiked 500 miles in a year. While that is pretty amazing, it doesn’t make me special. I just walked. But what is special is the fact, I did it scared, sick, and doubtful. I did it not knowing when the pain would end, and if I’d ever catch my breath again. I did it with determination to not quit until I had reached my destination.
I was tired of climbing the stairs leading to nowhere.
Somewhere out there you are climbing your own mountain. It may not be a physical mountain, but it is just as hard and painful. Perhaps you are telling yourself you can’t go any further. You are tired, hurting, and just don’t see any end in sight.
DON’T GIVE UP!
Now is the time for that final push. Sure it is going to suck. Sure it is going to hurt. Sure you are going to want to cry, scream, or stop.
But don’t sit down.
You have something left in your tank. God has equipped you with the exact fuel you will need for the climb ahead. Don’t rely on what your head, is telling you it thinks you can do. Call on your determination. It will get you to the top!
Remember…. you haven’t really exhausted all the possibilities, you just think you have. Keep moving.