Life sure gives us lessons. I think my childhood was pretty easy. Even my years as a teenager and young adult seem easy in retrospect. Once I got married, life really ramped up with the lessons -- taught by difficult trials. I'm sure I had trials before I got married, but now I can't really remember many of them well. Interesting how things that I must have found so important and life altering in the moment are now all but forgotten. Or maybe it's that they don't seem so difficult anymore.
As a newly-wed I began the encounter with my first really difficult trial. I figured I would learn something and finish (for lack of a better word) the trial in a relatively short period of time. The trial was our desire to have a baby. As you may already know, that trial continued for many years, even presenting itself as we desired to have more children after our first set of twins was a couple years old or so. There were times when I expected the Lord to deliver us from this difficulty quite quickly. There were many other things going on in our lives to the tune of college education, hefty church callings, student teaching, job changes (and lack thereof), moving to a new state, going through many different doctors--some really terrible, more job changes, etc. I was tried more deeply than I knew possible. And at some point I figured this was it; our one big huge trial. I didn't know why the Lord would give us our biggest, most difficult defining trial so early in our married life. And I think I also figured that once we got through this, once we finally leaped this huge hurdle, that would be it. We would be golden. Life would be easy. We could just "endure," and coast on through the rest of our easy lives.
I seriously think I believed that delusion at one point. Maybe I needed to believe that to get through. Well, since then I've learned that there are a lot more difficult trials in our path of life. In fact, those children we prayed for so desperately sometimes ARE these newer trials . . . but that's another post entirely. My mom recently shared with me some words of wisdom that she learned from another wonderful lady. The idea she shared with me was something like this: I need to enjoy the moments in this challenge, climbing this mountain, because once I reach the summit I'll find that there is another larger mountain just beyond this one.
If someone had told me that while I was younger and trying so hard to have babies, I might have called them a liar. That trial was so heart wrenching, the emotion was so raw and immediate and unending. I couldn't imagine there could be any other difficulty in life that would compare. And in some ways, no other trial does compare to that one. But each new big trial I face seems to have it's own difficulties. A new way I need to be refined. A new way I need to be humbled. And I'm grateful to recognize that the Lord knows my weaknesses so well. He knows what I need to change so that I can be strengthened further. Eternity must take some serious mettle! I thought I had learned so much by the time those first babies finally were conceived. Then, as I've realized at other times in my life, it seems the more I know, the more I realize I don't know. The more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn. I really hope by the time I die I have come to a point where I feel like I've made some serious progress on the learning.
As I struggle through my mountain climbs, I think I've become more aware and more sympathetic to the climbs I see others struggling to achieve. My heart aches as I watch friends and family facing their own challenges. I wish I could help them somehow. But I don't really know how to get through my own climb yet. And I realize all I can do is love them and pray for them, as I pray to make it through my own difficulties.
I think these trials have also made me more aware and appreciative of my blessings. Of course I know the Lord has given me all things. However, that knowledge becomes more poignant, more meaningful, as I recognize the little (and big!) miracles, the tender mercies, He bestows on me. My new resolve is to enjoy the climb, enjoy the enjoyable moments in the struggle. And learn gratitude for the struggle, the opportunity to learn, the challenge to allow my weaknesses to become strengths. One of my close friends has often expressed her gratitude for her trials because it's an opportunity to grow, learn, strengthen her testimony. I think I've felt a bit of that before. Now it's time I really learned to be grateful for the difficult, defining moments of my life. Even when "moments" means long, difficult years.