Every fall my dad and I do an organized bike ride together in a tiny town in Michigan. The ride draws a crowd of about 5,000+ cyclist ranging from avid athletes to me–the girl who biked one 25 mile ride all summer long.
There are all sorts of routes to chose from with options spanning from 15 miles to 100 miles. We usually start at daybreak with big dreams and run on adrenaline for the first 15-20 miles. No matter how out of shape I am, biking in a crowd of people makes me feel like a road warrior.
Right around mile 35 or so when it sets in that I had no business going on an all day bike excursion, we turn the corner to find ourselves at the bottom yet another gigantic hill. It might as well be Everest. I’m used to roads next to cornfields as far as the eye can see, and biking on what feels like a 90 degree incline is exactly as hard as it sounds.
We bike tandem together, so it’s helpful that I’m not alone in this. My dad’s common phrase when we’re heading towards a big hill is “it will flatten out.” I love that. Because it does. Every. Single. Time. From a distance it looks like an impossible feat, but eventually, no matter how slow we’re going or how long it takes, it flattens out and we reach the top.
I’ve also learned that the higher up on the hill that I get, the easier it is. Not easy physically….not even sort of. But easier mentally. Because somewhere along the way I decide I can do this and I develop the mental toughness I need to make it to the other side.
These past few months things have been challenging for me for a variety of reasons in a variety of ways and it hasn’t gotten any easier. On top of unforeseen circumstances, life changes, and a few heavy, hard things–including some postpartum depression–I’ve also wrestled with deep loneliness. It feels slightly embarrassing to admit, because it makes me feel defective. It’s not been a season of my greatest strengths coming to life.
And in terms of my metaphor, it’s only slightly flattening out. But the good news is that I’m no no longer at the bottom. I’m not stunned by it all or overwhelmed by disappointment when things are, well, disappointing. I’m not sure what it looks like on the other side of this hill, but I’m gaining perspective. And stamina. And the ability to wait some things out.
Because if there’s anything life’s hill should teach us, it’s that waiting turns into endurance turns into strength of character. And really that waiting is just good for us. We’re people that don’t mind a challenge, as long as it lasts 48 hours or less. Our long game is weak; we want a tiny bit of hardship followed by relief and reward, and sooner rather than later, please.
We spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out why the hard stuff is even in our path to begin with rather than just suiting up. We ask why, complain, and then pray for things to get easier. Because we did not sign up for any of this.
I totally get it. I feel it, too. I don’t want any of these unhappiness or difficulty garbage. I want the good stuff, the easy stuff, the stuff that the “good life” is surely made of.
But there is just no such life.
And that hill you’re on–the one you’re climbing at a snail’s pace because it’s a grueling, steep climb–it won’t always be this hard. You won’t always be this exhausted and sleepless, out of patience, and emotionally worn down. These challenges will fade into the background and eventually become a story you tell about a season you survived.
You won’t always be grieving this loss as deeply as you are now. You will grieve in different seasons your whole life, but it won’t always hurt this bad or run this deep. There will be life and hope and sunnier days ahead.
You won’t always wonder why your job makes you want to quit, why that person who makes you crazy isn’t going anywhere, or why you and your spouse just cannot get on the same page. You won’t always feel lonely and isolated because life wasn’t meant to be lived alone (just preaching to the choir here).
You will not always feel like a failure, like you’re two steps behind, or like you just can’t find your groove. There won’t always be conflict at every corner or more hours in the day than it feels like there is grace for, because grace can’t run dry.
And someday when you glance behind you, it won’t seem so bad. Or maybe it will look as terrible as it felt, but at least the worst will be over.
This hill I’m on is not my first, not my hardest, and certainly won’t be my last. I have had seasons of counseling, season of medication, season of unrelenting prayer, and seasons of learning to just sit in the quiet and the uncomfortable. The gap between my ideal and my reality have been a canyon at times. Mostly because I have unrealistic expectations for an easy life and a desire for a God who is all blessings and no trials.
But God is in the business of growing, refining and restoring. He’s about making sturdy people equipped for the road ahead, not popsicles who melt on a hot day.
I have more uncertainty ahead of me…I’m not at the top of this hill yet. I still might have more things to let go of, more change to embrace, and more strength training coming my way. I’m learning to be patient with the process, and to trust that God has good things ahead.
Because sure enough, it will flatten out.
photo credit: here