Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Peaks and Valleys and Turning 30

In 14 days I turn 30. I always thought I would dread this time in my life, because isn't that what people are supposed to do to mourn the death of their twenties? But I can't wait to walk through this particular doorway. I feel like my twenties have been one giant ball of confusion, a misstep at life almost. And while I'm meeting 30 with a new bag of questions to explore, I'm excited about what's next. While life is still a question mark to me, I feel that the grit and grind of life is slowly being sifted away, like I have survived the pain and the hurdles, like I am standing on the peak of the mountain of my youth.
During the summer of 2000, I participated in a summer mission project in South Lake Tahoe, California. The summer involved a lot of spiritual growth, learning to share the gospel, and working in the area. Some of the students I was on project with had cool jobs like working at the Ponderosa Ranch where they had filmed the show Bonanza. Others got to work on the Tahoe Queen, a local riverboat.
I worked at McDonald's.

Not only did I work at McDonald's, but the location of our camp was about 6 miles from the store that I worked at. My car was in Tennessee. So I purchased a bicycle, and 5 days a week I rode 6 miles to McDonald's, took orders for burgers and fries for 5 or 6 hours, and then rode 6 miles back to camp. Now, I guess if you have to ride your bike to and from work, doing it in the beautiful city of Lake Tahoe isn't all that bad, because every day on the way home from work this was my view:

This is Mt. Tallac. It's the tallest mountain peak in Lake Tahoe at 3, 250 ft. It's known for it's "snow cross" which you can see here to the left of the mountain's summit. Even in the heat of the summer, the snow is visible in the cross shaped crevice, and all summer long I got to gaze at this beautiful creation.

However, in all the time I was gazing at this thing...I never thought I'd actually climb it.

All summer, a large portion of our group talked about climbing Tallac. The climbing rating by the United States Forest Service is "difficult" which means that it is a day's hike that should not be done alone and also should probably not be done by someone who gets winded walking up a steep flight of stairs. However, it doesn't require ropes or any kind of rock climbing experience. It's just a strenuous hike. A strenuous 5 mile, straight up the damn mountain, kind of hike. One day towards the end of the summer talking about hiking the mountain turned into actually doing it, and I found myself putting on my tennis shoes with two pairs of socks and packing a sack lunch.

Have I mentioned that I don't really enjoy hiking? There are bugs. And it is hard. And there is nothing to look at but nature. And it is hard. And after about 15 minutes, nature is boring. is hard.

But I went. And after about 15 minutes, nature was boring, and I was tired of looking at my doubled socked feet. And I was getting nervous, because looking up to see how far there was left to go meant tipping your head all the way back until the bones in the back of your neck popped and being met with the sight of a 3,250 ft MOUNTAIN. But peer pressure is a funny thing, and because everyone else seemed to be enjoying hiking the big damn mountain, I put on my best "this is awesome" face and kept going. And going. And going. And going. For about 5 hours. There were bugs. It was hot. Phrases like "I can't do this" and "What was I thinking" and "I'm never going to make it" flashed through my mind on repeat. The landscape of the mountain turned from wildflowers and pebbles to evergreen and boulder. It got colder. I put on my fleece pullover and marveled at a family of deer. We stopped for a water break. And then we started climbing again. Up and up and up. And bit by bit by bit. And eventually I didn't have to tip my head so far back to see the peak of the mountain, because a little at a time, the peak of the mountain was getting closer. And closer. And closer. And then, I climbed over a giant rock, with patches of snow on the ground around me, and just like that, the peak of the mountain had come to meet me.

The top of the mountain was rocky, and our group began to snap pictures of the view below us.

It was breathtaking. Any way you turned you saw something spectacular. Emerald Bay and Fallen Leaf Lake were tiny from thousands of feet away, and I felt sorry for the people below us who were oblivious to the beauty that was escaping them from the safety of sea level. Standing on the the patch of rocky earth that formed the peak of that mountain was like being in such intimate conversation with God. Almost like he was letting me in on one of his many secrets, like he was giving me a glimpse of how big He was without ever saying a word. There was a deafening quiet on the top of that mountain, and I became so absorbed by the silence that I forgot every moment of "I can't do this" and "What was I thinking" and "I'll never make it." I forgot about the heat and the bugs and the hours that it took to get there. I forgot about the aches in my legs and the blisters on my feet, and the fact that my lunch had long ago abandoned me. All I heard was the silence of God's voice in my spirit saying "You did it. This is yours."

That single moment of peace was worth all of the pain and suffering and labor and effort it took to get there. Because for a brief moment in time, the world stood still, peace lived within me,
and God and I were on the same page of the story and the same peak of the mountain.

Turning 30 takes me back to that moment, because for all of the "What was I thinkings" and the "I'll never make its," I have found myself at the peak of my youth. Looking back, I remember the pain and the lost footing, and the longing to turn around and go back home. So many times felt like failure, and so many times felt like shame. But now that I am on the verge of living my better life, there is peace in this place. I can appreciate where I am, because I know where I have been. I can look back on the journey and say

"I did it. This is mine."


Lacey said...

You should consider sending this to -- they have several good print publications. Also

...Just a suggestion. :)

Lora said...

LOVE this. perfect analogy :)
(and happy early birthday. i'll be joining you on the peak of 30 in a couple of months!)