Hills: Where Growth Happens

“I’m not going to make it!”  I almost shouted inside myself, to myself, as I kicked my legs forward with all the strength I could muster to finish climbing a hill on a morning run. The run was timed this particular morning and I knew that the few large hills on my circuit would be the greatest hindrance to achieving my pace goals. I was struggling! Wind was leaving my lungs and fatigue was setting in intensely on the second and largest hill when suddenly a Voice spoke within me saying, “Hills are where growth happens.” I pushed it into high gear.

It’s a glorious thing when life goes smoothly. When all our endeavors seem to succeed, the family is great, our health is in order, and all our needs (and most of our wants) are met in abundance. I don’t despise an easy season or take them for granted because, as is the nature of seasons, they do not last forever. These times of life, when we seem to be cruising are great, but they are not where growth, change, or personal development occur in greatest measure.

The hills of life are bound to come. Times when we look ahead and we notice that the next miles all seem to be uphill and we know in advance that we are going to have to push, to be committed to finishing, if we are going to make it through. These are specifically the moments when we can take great joy, knowing that trials lead to perseverance, develop character, and will shape and prepare us for life that still lies ahead. We don’t need to pretend life is good or easy in these times, but the key is that we must continue to find joy, moment by moment, and in doing so we can cultivate and remain in the realization that life is beautiful and we can be content, in good times or in bad, with little or with much.

It seems redundant and even common sense in our era of self-help gurus and motivational speakers, but there is truth in the practice of being present in the moment and grateful for the little things. I was nearly overcome by joy a couple of days ago on another run, feeling the wind on my skin and watching the sunrise over the mountains. With such beauty surrounding me how could life possibly be bad!? With breathe in my lungs and sun on my skin how could I possibly despair? Not only must we experience these small delights and consolations, but we must make them meditations. Once we have taken the time to notice beauty or these spiritual and natural pleasures (there is no difference, actually) we can recall them throughout our day to maintain a space of joy, even when we are in the difficult seasons of our journey. Recalling a kind smile from a dear friend can sustain us through the most difficult of days, even if that smile was received a month ago!

If you are in a trying season of life remember that it’s not the easy part of run that causes you to be more fit and able; hills are where the growth happens. Take a moment, right now, to bring to memory something beautiful; a sunrise you witnessed, the last time you laughed till you cried, the kiss of a lover, the smile of a friend, or even a quiet moment where you felt at peace. Allow the feelings of that moment to fill you; re-live it! Very often the medicine we need for now is the memory of yesterday’s joy. When we fix our eyes on what is good and beautiful it conditions and prepares us to embrace life in this moment, regardless of circumstances.

Peace and greatest joy to you.