bottom of the hill
am looking out the window this morning at a snow-covered terrain. but i am thinking back to those days in early january when the temps soared to the mid-fifties. when mid-winter days offered chances to do things i could not otherwise do this time of year. on sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago i drove to pilot knob and parked at the front gate. dry pavement, leather gloves, and a heart set on doing something challenging. physically demanding. for me, there are times when i just need to do something outside the realm of accessibility. outside the realm of it’s comforts. i had some things i needed to work out. to think through. and so, to push myself. as paul writes about in corinthians when he says “i buffet my body and make it my slave.” so i took to the hills of the state park. using my arms as my legs and meeting the challenges of gravity that would otherwise keep me at the bottom of the hill.
as the sign near the top of pilot knob says, this is the second highest elevation in the state of iowa. some 1450 feet above sea level. and i made it to the sign, although not all the way up to the observation tower. but don’t be deceived by how this sounds. i didn’t start at sea level and i didn’t make it all the way to the observation tower. the gates were closed and chained, blocking access to the last 50 or 75 feet of elevation.
two thirds of the way up the last and what seemed like the steepest of the slopes to the top was a series of droppings. back on the farm we called it horse%&#@. now that i’m grown up and a refined person, i would call it horse%&$*. and my thought as i turned to the other side of the road to keep it off my wheels and hands was, “i guess i’m not the only one working out some of my crap here today [literally speaking for the horse, figuratively speaking for the man on wheels].”
honestly, over the years since iv’e been paralyzed, i have come to look at the possibilities of my life through the lens of limits. how steep is that grade? how many steps are there? are the doorways 36 inches wide? how much of a turning radius is there in the bathroom? those kinds of things. because those limits answer questions for me like, how high can i go? how far into a building can i make it? and how long can i stay? such are some of the physical limits.
perhaps even more significant, though, is how that can affect my thinking in other areas. the physical bleeds into the mental, emotional, spiritual parts of my life as well. i see limits and those limits define the parameters of possibility. and i ask similar questions such as how high can i go? how far in can i make it? how long can i stay? and sometimes, those are the things that trouble me most about myself and how i take on the life, the hills that are in front of me. limits are limits. i just don’t want to embrace more of them than is absolutely necessary. i want to live with more of a sense of hope than limitation. i don’t know about you, but i don’t want to spend my life at the bottom of the hills.
“our ability to endure, to persevere, to overcome is fueled by this one seemingly innocuous ingredient called hope.” Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings