We started our day early. We were in Heber Springs, Arkansas with the Berry side of the family. We woke up about 7:30am, after a long night of sleeping with a squirming, snoring, loud-breathing 2-year-old. Though we were very tired, we had a definite mission in mind when we woke up. We were going to take all 5 kids, plus Mont’s dad, Papa, 2 nieces, and Mont’s sister, Betsy, to climb Sugar Loaf Mountain, all before 10am, when we had to leave. We rallied the troops, passed out the donuts, made sure we had our coffee, and then headed out.
Sugar Loaf Mountain is in a beautiful area of Arkansas, and for August, the air was pretty cool, so we all set out optimistically. At the beginning, the kids started out fast, trying to compete with each other. By the end, we had all settled into a nice pace, acting like a team. The kids were in front, with their youthful energy, parents strategically behind, ready to catch anyone who fell.
There are several unspoken rules on a journey such as this….
• You have to stay together, though a little roaming distance is O.K.
• You have to stay on the path. Steep falls down one side and plenty of poison ivy on both sides are good reminders.
• You have to see it as an overall journey, with reaching the top as the ultimate goal, but the journey being part of the enjoyment.
• You need a few necessary items…Proper shoes, comfortable clothes, a cell phone is case of an emergency, a camera to catch the memories, and for Betsy, a can of Diet Coke.
Follow these basic rules, and the journey up Sugar Loaf Mountain will be a great experience … except for the exceptions, and there are always exceptions….
• Except for the moments that the way gets steeper and your legs start burning. Of course, you can’t admit this to the kids; they are counting on you as their trusty leader.
• Except for the times when kids fall, and skin their knees, and want to be carried for awhile.
• Except for the moments when the kids want to follow the more difficult path, and though you know it is easier the other route, you let them find out for themselves.
• Except for the moments you decide to let them go the more difficult path alone. Of course, the other path is close by, you can still see them, but they are on their own. The comfort is that soon you will meet at the top.
• Except for the little twinges of worry you feel along the way…What if they fall? What if letting them go on alone was a mistake? What if I can’t make it to the top? They are counting on me!
About half-way through the climb, we began to see this journey like the journey of parenting…
• It’s a constant movement upwards, at times steep and uncomfortable.
• You have to stick to the path—God’s path. It is dangerous getting off the path.
• You have to stick together; building better relationship and cooperation as you go.
• You have to let them fall sometimes.
• You have to carry them sometimes, even when you yourself are very tired, and would love to be carried.
• You have to let them go sometimes, and just pray them through.
• And you need a few tools to make the journey a bit safer and easier. The Bible is the best tool of all.
But what joy comes when you all reach the top! The view is great, and you don’t remember the steep parts. You’re still a bit tired, but it’s a “definitely worth it” kind of tired.
We sat at the top of the mountain, took all the appropriate photos, and then had a Sabbath rest together. We contemplated Isaiah 40:28-31,
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak and to those who have no might, He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
And then we sang
“What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and grief’s to bear,
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.”
We looked around and saw three generations working together, encouraging each other, learning from each other, and sharing in the joy of reaching the top. In our parenting journey we will one day reach the top, but we will miss one of the greatest gifts God offers us, if we don’t enjoy the journey along the way.