Italy – 6

8-7-06

I find myself again in the Alps, on the weekly church hike with the impossibly fit 80-year-old Padre Mauricio and about 40 others. This peaceful setting just lends itself to writing – to taking on the monumental task  of describing with mere words the indescribable scenes surrounding me.

I have decided I really like hiking. It is difficult and often uncomfortable, but ultimately, incredibly rewarding.  I’m beginning to understand why so many people do it for a hobby. Though for me, much of the time is spent thinking, “Why did I do this again??”, the view from the final destination causes all such thoughts to dissipate. When I look across the valley to my friend, the majestic Monterosa, I wonder how I was EVER less than ecstatic about this hike.

That brings to my mind two analogies: The first is that this entire trip has been somewhat like a hike. At times, I have been exhausted, wondering why I ever came. But there have been shining moments – small peeks into how absolutely worthwhile it is despite the fatigue and pain of being alone. And when I reach the end of my trip, my “final destination”, I will be able to look out to a fantastic view of symbolic “mountaintops” and “valleys” that I myself experienced, all in order to get to the end and say. “That was hard, but SO WORTH IT.”

In the same exact way, walking the paths of Christ is not often glamorous or comfortable. It involves sweat and labor and humility; but is it worth it? Oh, absolutely! For God is SO faithful to those willing to climb mountains and endure valleys in His name.

Why do we go to such great lengths to be comfortable? Like this very hike, there are so many unique experiences that only come about from deliberately becoming uncomfortable. Often it takes breaking away from every comfort to experience truly extraordinary things. Looking back, I wonder how I ever agreed to pack a suitcase (okay, three) and leave my boyfriend, my family and my home for the first time, to be completely responsible for three children I don’t even know, in a country where I didn’t know the language or the culture. But for some reason, I did!

I was somehow blinded from the reality of what a challenge it would be, and now I see that that temporary blindness was a gift from God. Had I not come and broken away from my comfortable life, I would not be currently sitting on a hillside in the world’s most spectacular mountains, with my shoes off and the piercing sun warming my face and shoulders. There would not be ants bumbling across my journal, nor butterflies fluttering about my head. I would not be listening to simple Italian songs being played on Marco’s guitar, echoing down to the valley below. I wouldn’t be giggling with the contagious laughter of Elletra and Maddalena, or be able to look at them and love them more with each day I spend with them.

Yes, it’s true that I’ve been uncomfortable. When the frigid mountain wind blows, the only part of my body that’s warm are my feet, covered by huge wool socks and hiking boots. And when the wind stops, I feel perfect, except of course for my feet which grow hotter than I care to talk about. BUT THEN, I glance up at the mountains with snow so shimmering and white that I have to shield my eyes just to see them. THEN, I pluck wild blueberries and raspberries from the steep, winding trail. That is when I know that discomfort was the right choice today.

And when I hear Allie singing Jesus Loves Me, a song I taught her, as she plays with her toys, I know that discomfort was the right choice this summer. And when I feel the presence of God, giving me a peace that transcends my understanding, comforting my homesickness, I have the blessed assurance that discomfort was the RIGHT CHOICE in serving Christ.

It is thanks to God, who sees far down the path of his children, and directs them where they should go. HE has known all along what I am only beginning to learn – that where there is pain, loneliness and yes, discomfort, there are rewards, joy, and experiences to last a lifetime.

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