My husband and I are serious hikers. We spend almost every summer in the Rocky Mountains exploring the beautiful hiking trails with our two boys. This is something we’ve done since before we had the boys, and it’s a value we’ve hoped to instill in them– this love of nature. A call toward the mountains. A true appreciation for God’s glorious creation. So this past summer, we were thrilled when our youngest son decided he wanted to “hike like a big boy” instead of riding in the backpack. We were prepared.
Bug spray? Check.
I even created a nature scavenger hunt for the boys to use along the way. We even packed jellybeans to ‘bribe’ him with when he got tired of walking. Yes, we were all geared up to hike four miles with two boys under the age of five. I was prepared in advance for tantrums and tiredness from our toddler.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the lesson he would end up teaching me that day on the trail.
Everyone was excited about seeing the waterfall. Especially our boys. And even though I thought the scavenger hunt would keep them busy for at least a mile, they were “done” with it within the first quarter of a mile. At first, it was really fun for us all. “Look at the flowers, Mom!” “I see an aspen leaf!” “Did you see that tiny, little squirrel?” Their curiosity and energy levels were on high, and we trekked along at a pretty nice pace for the first mile or so. But into the second mile, our little guy began to lag behind a bit. He had found a hiking stick along the way, and he was using it to “fight off bears” that came upon the path. Before long, my husband and our older son had ventured far ahead, leaving me with Mr. Distracted.
He wanted to pick up every leaf and look at it.
Then came the rocks. He carried at least four or five of them in his little paw, and every time he dropped one, he’d have to stop and find it.
Needless to say, I felt like we were never going to make it to our destination.
I asked, “Hey buddy, do you wanna see the waterfall?” With a hefty swing of his stick, he replied, “Yes, Mommy. But firs, I goda fight dese bears. Hi-ya!” That’s when I got to thinking about a plaque I’d seen in one of the gift shops earlier in the week. It had said, “Life is a journey, not a race. Take time for the simple things in life.”
And that’s when it hit me. Fighting imaginary bears, searching for lost rocks, and holding his dirty little hand were just as important as seeing the waterfall. Maybe even more important. It was a moment, I realized, that we would never get back. So instead of rushing him, I grabbed a stick and joined him in the fight. And when he was ready, with one tiny hand full of rocks and the other nestled inside mine, we started hiking again.
We eventually made it to the waterfall.
As we sat there eating our lunch, I thought about our hike and how it applies to life. Sometimes we just get so busy. So focused on goals… the destinations. Getting the promotion. Another degree. The pursuit of that elusive book contract. We tell ourselves, like I told my young son that day, “Once we get there, we’ll have more time to play.” But by the time we “get there” we’re either too tired, from the pace or we just don’t feel like playing anymore.
That day, I learned a lesson that I still have to remind myself of quite often.
On days when the house is a mess, and the boys are begging to play a board game.
When I have a stack of papers to grade taller than the coffee table, and my husband wants to watch a basketball game together.
Enjoy the journey.
Now, I’m not suggesting we abandon our dreams or ditch our responsibilities. Cleaning the house, grading the papers, and even finishing my novel are all important goals. They’re responsibilities that are a part of my life. I guess I’m just suggesting that we don’t get so focused on the destination that we forget to enjoy the beautiful sights along the trail. The teachable moments we have with our children. The tender moments we share with our spouses.
Take a moment.
Take time to play.
To fight bears and dig in the dirt for that one special rock.
And I promise. When you reach the destinations in life, you might even appreciate them even more.