Rising to the Occasion

We limit ourselves, our abilities, and our actions, nearly every single day. We push the snooze button before we decide to roll out of bed. Our first decision of the day is to procrastinate.

We tell ourselves we are too tired to work out, we are too busy to pray, or we just can’t.

This is how I feel far too often.

This past week I had the pleasure of co-leading a group of women in the Canadian wilderness for a backpacking, canoeing and portaging trip. We had 6 women willing to brave the weather, the moose, bears, and trucking around a 40 plus pound backpack on their shoulders for a week. And when you portage from one side of the island to the next, someone also has to carry a 30 pound canoe in addition to the backpack. To say the trip is physically demanding is an understatement.

Four of the six of us had never done anything like this before. On the first night we got to camp we had some things we had to get in order. We had to cut down and gather fire wood, hang a rope from a tree to keep our food from getting eaten by bears, and fetch some water from the lake to boil and use for our dinner preparation. Some of these tasks shocked the women.

“So we just have to find a tree high enough to throw a rope over so that the bear doesn’t get our food? The camp rangers don’t already pick the tree? There were some blank stares coming from a few of the ladies. “So… in the morning we just pack up all our stuff, carry all this on our shoulders and do it all again tomorrow night? For the next 5 nights?”

The first time I went on this trip 3 years ago – I thought I wouldn’t make it out of the wilderness alive. When I had the canoe and backpack digging into my trapezius muscles and pushing each vertebrae into the one below it – I thought, “I paid money to go on this trip? These women who have done this before are nuts to come out here and do it again.”

Ahh, how the tables have turned since 2012.

These trips have shaped me in so many different ways. There are lessons to be learned when you push yourself physically. There are certainly lessons to be learned when you approach a moose standing near the entrance of a portage, or when a bear gets your food on the last day, or when you learn how to use a compass for the first time. There are far too many parallels to draw from a week in the wilderness to our walk with the Lord, but I had to share the story of one of my closest friends who went on the trip this year. Watching her change from the first day to the last was incredible. It was so full of grace.

When we sat around the fire on the first night she was happy to be off the lake and done canoeing for the day, but I think that was about the only thing she was happy about. I could tell by the look on her face that she thought this may have been a bad idea to commit to the trip months ago. She’s not a complainer. She just did what needed to be done for the first two days. On the third day, she woke up exhausted. She was at the end of her rope. After a couple sleepless nights, she woke up that morning and said, “I can’t even think about putting a canoe on my shoulders today.”

But we had to keep going. We had a route planned for the week, and we had to complete it to get home. She and I were assigned canoe partners that day. We were in charge of reading the map, leading the other canoes through the lakes, and arriving at the 4 portages for that day. As we approached the first portage, we were talking about our personalities and a devotional we read that morning. It was about standing out and not being afraid to be yourself. Be the person God created you to be. We paused our conversation, and I decided to take the first portage. We loaded the backpack and canoe on my shoulders and headed off.

The rest of the canoes kept in line as we continued to set the compass to the map and press onto the next destination. As we approached the second portage, I asked my friend, “You want this one?”

She reluctantly agreed but felt like she was up for the challenge. And the challenge was met. With no problem. We got to the third portage and I asked her if she wanted to take this one. She did. We got to the fourth one of the day; she dominated that one too.

You see, my friend is a baller. She has this competitive drive. For the longest time, she felt like it wasn’t something that was honorable. Like she had to hide it. But in the glorious light of our Heavenly Father that competitive drive was fully redeemed. It was inspiring to the other women on the trip. It was inspiring to me. From the woman who said that morning, “I can’t even think about putting a canoe on my shoulders today.”

She hiked nearly one mile that day with 70 plus pounds on her traps. I got to see the inner strength of this woman, my friend, paralleled with her outer strength that day.

We serve a beautiful God. One that doesn’t put limits on us. One that gives us friends to show us the way. We serve a God that gives us the strength we need just in that moment – and not a second sooner. So when we say, “I just can’t,” God is believing something so much more for us. Praying that we see ourselves through His eyes a bit more often than the norm.

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