A Leap of Faith
Originally published to Faith Restored on August 7, 2019
The beauty and majesty of the New Hampshire mountains never ceases to amaze me! Growing up, my family vacationed there every summer and it’s a tradition my own family is carrying on. Last week, we enjoyed swimming, sight seeing, looking for moose and bear (sadly, aside from some wild turkeys and squirrels, the animals seem to be on vacation too), hiking, and enjoying the various family activities that the Granite State has to offer. We were able to find a small church not far from our hotel and, although there was no daily mass available, we were able to spend some quiet time with Jesus. There is no time when I feel as free and at peace as I do when with Jesus! Our time away from home and the commitments and grind of everyday life was much-needed and none of us wanted to leave.
One of the best parts of vacationing with my own children is watching their eyes grow wide with wonder as they stare open-mouthed at the mountains and everything else that is new to them. We passed by (I don’t know how many) kids too busy on their cell phones to be bothered to even look up and it makes me a little sad to see. We’re so tied to technology that we are missing out on so much around us! But I digress…
When I was a child, my family used to go on long hikes on various trails in New Hampshire. My love of hiking is something that has fallen to the wayside since starting my own family. I don’t consider myself to be exactly an “adventurer” but there is something so refreshing and freeing about walking trails and enjoying the wonders God’s creation. I love being able to get in some exercise while enjoying some time in quiet prayer and reflection. Needless to say, trying to enjoy a quiet, reflective hike with young children is just not possible.
Our kids were golden for a little while and, actually, we found ourselves jogging a few times to keep up with our 6-year-old daughter who is basically Tigger. Keep in mind that the trail we were on was almost all uphill in the beginning. At first, we were grateful that they were getting their energy out (parents, you “get” what I’m talking about!) and, in a moment of my husband and I said to one another, “Ha! They’ll sleep tonight!” A little while into our hike, we were groaning, “I guess we’ll sleep well tonight too…if we survive this.” Don’t get me wrong, we were having fun but we were on high alert and anxious as we made sure our kids were safe and that they were staying away from dangerous areas along the trail.
Sometimes, as parents my husband and I feel like all we do is yell in utter panic, dismay, and terror.
“Slow down! We can’t see you!”
“Leave your sister alone!”
“Stop throwing rocks! You’re going to hit someone!”
“It’s slippery on the stairs – stop running!”
“Don’t walk into the poison ivy patch!”
“Don’t lean over the railing! You could fall…and die!
Once the initial excitement wore off a bit, the kids’ complaining started:
“He’s bothering me!”
“I have to go potty…now!”
“My feet hurt!”
“Are we almost done?”
“I can’t carry all these rocks. They’re too heavy and I’m sooo tired. Mama, Dada, can you carry them?” (Note that Mama was carrying the backpack filled with necessities and Dada was carrying our two-year-old on his shoulders).
Many times, we had to remind our children that their legs were definitely working correctly and that they would indeed survive. In hindsight, I have to laugh. This was quite a change from the days of quiet and reflective rambles in the woods!
During our hike, I realized something: I walked the same path about 10 years ago with my husband when we were newlyweds and, at the time, I had walked it without fear. My fear had grown considerably since then. Watching my children was like looking at myself from years ago when I, as a child, even climbed some smaller mountains with my family. I specifically remember one time being guided by a good family friend who had been a mountain climber in his younger years. There was a point in the climb that you could either go left up a fairly steep rock or put your foot straight in front of you and basically fall to your death. Without hesitation, I followed him and even took a moment to look over the edge and see how high up I was. I had almost no fear!
As I’ve gotten older, my fears have grown. To be clear, that’s not a bad thing! It’s important to have a healthy fear for the very real dangers that are around us. However, during our family hike this past week, fear and anxiety was all that I could focus on at first. When you’ve gone through trauma, you tend to become hypervigilant – you’re always thinking ahead to what could happen next and how you can prevent it or survive it. You fall into “survivor mode” and that’s the mode I’ve been in since almost dying back in June. I was, of course, worried about our children falling or getting hurt, but I was also worried that my heart would fall into another dangerous rhythm and that my ICD would have to shock me. I could almost see myself falling to my death over the edge of where we were walking and it made my knees weak. I worried that the kids would get too tired or that our youngest would get cranky because it was getting close to her usual nap-time, and I started to worry about finishing our hike because one of our kids suddenly announced that they had to use the bathroom (right now!)
Life is unpredictable and, oftentimes, we can’t control what happens. The mighty mountains towering above me in all directions were a clear reminder of God’s grandeur and how He is ultimately the one in control. Yes, fear can be a healthy and very necessary thing! Yet, our fears can become so crippling that we allow precious moments to slip by unnoticed. I thought to myself, “What if instead of feeding my constant worry, I focus on the beauty and joy around me?” I took a deep breath (slow, deep breathing and counting really can help in anxious moments), asked the Holy Spirit for help, and I took a little leap of faith and let go of my anxieties.
I can’t stop smiling when I recall the little moments, those glimmers of God’s grace, that might have passed by me had I been focused on my never-ending list of worries!
I instead did my best to focus on the wonder on my children’s faces and how small they looked in comparison to the huge rock formations around us. I focused on their delight as they saw covered bridges, amazing waterfalls, pools, and some of the most spectacular mountain views I have ever seen. They were just as equally delighted by all the little Chipmunks scurrying through the leaves and I smiled to hear their cries of amazement and disbelief when we read the signs about the history of the gorge we were at. Children are so innocent, so full of life, love and wonder! Despite their occasional complains, their little minds are abuzz with all sorts of questions, some of which I would never think to ask. More often than not, they are so focused on what’s going on around them that it doesn’t occur to them that they should be afraid of certain things. All too soon, my children will grow and their fears will grow. As parents, I pray my husband and I can help instill healthy fear in them!
Did I lose all my worry on our hike? No, of course not! I’m a human being (not to mention a mom) and worry goes along with the territory. For example, when one of the kids walked a little too close to the edge, I panicked a little. When there’s a chance your child could potentially fall almost 100 feet down (yikes!), you don’t just shrug your shoulders and say, “Se la vi!” and wait to see what happens. I think we can all agree that would be foolish (not to mention very bad parenting). Or when another child ventures towards a poison ivy patch, you momentarily panic as you anticipate what’s sure to come. Your heart jumps a little when you see your child running down a very steep hill. You can almost see the blood and hear their screams as you imagine them face planting onto the hard rocks. You instinctively scream at them, “Slow down!”
Experience has taught us to fear certain things, things that children have not necessarily experienced yet and, as adults and as parents, we do our best to protect their innocence. Life is full of obstacles to our paths and mountains to cross. Sometimes, we may wait it out and see what happens. Perhaps the obstacle is moved or we find a way across the mountain. We learn from our mistakes and we develop appropriate, normal fears. There are, however, other times when the Holy Spirit inspires us to take a leap of faith. That leap of faith – be it small or big – can sometimes change the course of our lives. When I think of the times over the course of my own life that I have felt called to take that leap of faith, I am truly in awe of God’s presence and grace in my life. For someone who lives with anxiety, that leap of faith is certainly a difficult one to take. But, as I was reminded on our family hike this past week, sometimes you have to make a conscious decision to let go, let your defenses down a little, and focus on the present and what’s right in front of you. Just that small leap of faith in allowing my anxieties to rest a little, made a big difference in the afternoon with my family.
Do your best to let go, take a leap of faith, and focus on the present. You just might be amazed and it might just change your life.