“Hey Dad, look! I’m almost as tall as you!”
I could only chuckle to myself when my six year old daughter made this observation as we walked down the streets of the beautiful mountain town of Breckinridge, Colorado.
Three days ago my girls hopped in their mothers car, officially signaling the end of my summer visit with them.
As I reflect on the summer, I have time to reflect on my life. I remember vividly the scene two years ago here in Colorado. I was definitely on the path toward recovery but if true recovery is the summit, I was merely walking across the parking lot toward the trail head!
There was so much fear, hurt, pride, and a strong desire to still control my life. Over the course of the last two years I have found recovery and it has given me a peace that I have never experienced before. God has brought me a long way.
But I still find myself feeling as if I have accomplished something on my own. That I have removed my character defects, I have conquered lust.
“Look, God! I am almost as tall as you!”
The reality is I am light years ahead of where my life was the last time I was in these mountains.
But that reality is not steeped in my self will or how strong and courageous I am. My reality is that the trail toward the mountain top of recovery is marked by humility, selflessness and surrender. There is no other path that leads to the mountain. Any trail I try to blaze on my own leads to danger, dead ends and destruction.
The day I said goodbye to the girls, my baby brother and I hiked a 14er called Mount Democrat. (There is a political joke in there somewhere but I’m not going to go there)
Maybe it was the emotional toll that the goodbye takes on me. Maybe it’s because I’m not in great shape at the moment. Whatever the case, I had a lot tougher time hiking this mountain compared to the last!
But that was probably good for me because I truly felt that I was powerless over the trail. It was kicking my butt and each step toward the top was a gift from God. I was grateful for the strength to keep going because I knew that the source of that strength was coming from deep inside myself, meaning it wasn’t my own physical strength. It was God giving me the hope that He would help me through the treacherous, rocky and uncertain path ahead.
For most of my hike, looking up was so discomforting and discouraging that I tried not to do it. Looking back down the path I had just traveled was much easier and gave me a little ego boost along the way. My ego was shattered whenever I would look up.
But I think that was because I was looking at the mountain all wrong. The mountain is not something I can conquer on my own. To think that is to put myself back in the drivers seat and that has never worked out well. There is crippling fear whenever I convince myself that I am strong enough to climb to the summit on my own power. I needed my 21 year old brother’s encouragement. Without it there is no way that I would have made it to the top. I needed all the storm clouds to stay away so I was not in danger of being struck by lightning or falling and breaking my leg because of wet conditions. God parted those clouds that day, not me.
To many it may seem like a silly, over spiritual statement to claim that it was really God that got me to the top.
For me there is no other way to explain it because to say that it was me who accomplished that feat would mean I claim a much bigger stake than I actually deserve.
I plan on living a life centered in recovery for the rest of my days here on earth.
I know that looking up (looking to the future) is too overwhelming if I am doing it by myself.
I need others and I need God. Period. Without them the fear dominates my life and the addict returns.
But also spending all my time looking back and reveling in my successes is not what God wants for me either. That’s too easy and it doesn’t get me anywhere. Don’t get me wrong reflection is good but I must spend just as much time or more looking ahead and praying that God will continue to do for me what I can’t do for myself.
Looking up can be painful. But looking up is the only way I can stay humble and feel a little hope each day.