Recently, a young pastor asked me what I know now that I wished I had known when I was his age and just starting in ministry. What a good question. How would you answer that query regarding your life?
I thought for a long moment, and this is what I told him:
Life is a series of peaks and valleys. When you are in the valleys of life, perspective is severely limited as the view is so dark and narrow, but when you attain the peaks of life the view is expansive and unrestricted – you can actually see clearly the circumstances surrounding your life.
Unfortunately, in life we spend more time in the valley and on the middle ground than we ever do on the mountain top. Compounding the problem, we tend to make critical decisions when we are in the depths of the valley, which is the worst time to make crucial course corrections because we see so little and feel so much fear and apprehension. The best time to make life decisions is when we approach or reach the summit, for then we can truly see. If we give up in the valley, we will never reach the peaks of life.
And that brought me to finish lines.
I believe that that greatest joys and rewards are reserved for those who persevere in life and press on to the finish line. It feels altogether different to finish a marathon, as opposed to any short dash. Life is a marathon, and the sweetest rewards belong to those who press on to the goal. The greatest years in work, marriage, ministry, parenting, and friendship are not the very first years, but the years when the relationships have been tested and found true; when people have endured the valleys and pressed on together toward the summit. Most folks don’t ever make the finish line because they have quit the race in the shadows of the valley.
I said to that young pastor that I wished someone had told me that the journey would be far more difficult and challenging than I could ever imagine, with deeper valleys and darker shadows. Ah, but even more so I wished someone had dared to tell me that the peaks would be higher, the rewards richer, if only I kept the faith and followed the Unfailing Guide.
He nodded. Not sure he understood, but then I’m not sure I would have understood, either.