The journey to school during my early childhood was marked by the daunting challenge provided by a huge hill. Each day presented this exhausting and forbidding climb to a set of young legs. On the days I traveled by bus, the sounds of the engine straining as it laboured up its steep incline reinforced the intimidating nature of this monolith. By the time I had learned to ride my bike, it was a great thrill to race down, my heart palpitating, inspired by adrenaline and the wind whistling past my ears. I clearly remember an occasion when the chain came off, leaving me to freewheel down this mountainside, unable to stop, hoping that every intersection would provide safe passage as my speed accelerated to frightening proportions. This veritable mountain on the landscape was so steep that many would take a detour through back streets to avoid engaging with it.
I visited this locality again recently, and was relieved to discover that there had been a lot of work done to make this path easier. It appears that the local authorities had trimmed a significant proportion from the top of the hill, and graded the road up to it. It is no longer the imposing mark upon the landscape, and it is with a tinge of regret that such a natural feature could be vandalised for the sake of progress: easing peopleís travel. The once-foreboding feature of the landscape, ripe for abseiling, is now no more than a casual stroll up a grassy knoll.
The reality is that the hill is as it stood all those years before. The landscape has not changed, only me. What was (and perhaps remains) an awesome challenge for a child takes on different perspective through adult eyes. It is a sign of growth that we reevaluate challenges and obstacles, and find ourselves approaching them with a different heart, and renewed confidence. Some we may have walked away from, others succumbed to, or been battered as a result. Still others we might have conquered, but left with little reserve for other pursuits. We might have walked away in self-preservation.
The journey of faith called Moses back to the place of failure: Egypt, from whence he had fled as a murderer. Peter was called to proclaim Jesus at Pentecost, to the same audience he had cowered from in denial during Jesusí trial. The challenges which have mastered or intimidated us may be the very place to which we need to return in order to fulfill Godís call upon us.
It may be that the place of our greatest failures might also become the greatest source of grace and growth. In God, all things become possible!
June 27, 2004