This past Tuesday I went on a hike with our ward’s Cub Scout Pack. One of my current callings is as Cub Scout Committee Chair and Eric serves as our ward’s Cubmaster, so even though we don’t have any cub scouts in our family yet we are very involved with the organization. Every year we’re supposed to organize a hike, which we’d intended to do back in May, however our original hike got rained out so we postponed it until this past week. Luckily where we live we are close to lots of great hiking trails so it wasn’t too hard to come up with a great hike.
Tuesday turned out to be a very busy day for me because there was a field trip organized at the Discovery Gateway Museum for homeschooling families which I wanted to attend with my kids. We ended up going from there straight to In ‘N Out for dinner, then to Walmart to pick up a snack for the cub scouts, and then immediately to the trail head to meet up with the scouts. I hadn’t definitively decided if I was going to brave taking my 3 kids on the hike or just wave the scouts off. We ended up having plenty of adult leaders show up but the kids were excited about going on the hike so we decided to at least start out and I knew that I could head back at any time if it became too much for them.
Unfortunately because I hadn’t made it back home and hadn’t fully planned to take my kids on this hike I hadn’t brought our hiking backpack with us. So I was stuck carrying my 19 month old Maeli on my hip – extra awesome since my back has been acting up a little lately. We quickly fell behind but I wasn’t too concerned. As we started out I put her down and she would walk some of the way, but then she’d stop every few feet and find a rock and say, “Oh, this is a rock! Oh, this is a rock!” Hiking is pretty slow going when you get excited about every little pebble on the trail. Normally I’d indulge this excitement, but since we were hiking with a larger group, and we were cutting it close on time to get the hike finished before dark anyways, I couldn’t let her stop to look at all of the rocks and carried her along the way.
On the way up to the falls I did pretty well carrying her. Then one of my friends took over and carried her for a little while and then she was handed off to Eric who carried her the remainder of the way to the falls. After we rested at the falls and had our snack we started down a different trail to get home. I took Maeli back so that Eric could lead the cub scouts and we quickly fell behind again. After being carried for so long Maeli started insisting that she would walk all by herself. She would say “Oh, this is a walk!” and did a pretty good job hiking on her own for her age. She did better on the way back about not stopping to comment on each individual rock, but 19 month olds do not walk exceedingly fast. I tried to carry her but every time I picked her up she would flail around like a fish out of water and say “whoa! whoa! whoa! whoa!” until I would put her down. She fell down on the trail a lot. But she refused to be carried by me, or by any of the other adults. She did let me pick her up whenever a bicyclist came down the trail and I would take advantage of those opportunities to walk with her as quickly as I could and get her as far as possible before she started flailing again. I really wanted to just carry her and get us back to the trail head before it became dark but our progress was slower with her fighting me than it was just letting her walk so we went slowly on.
Unfortunately because we weren’t taking the same trail back as we’d taken out, and we’d fallen behind, there were a few times when I was concerned that we might get lost. I am exceptionally good at getting lost, even if I really stop and try to think things through I just seem to have a talent for picking exactly the wrong direction. Luckily I had my cell phone and I was able to call Eric at one of the junctures and ask him to clarify which trail I was supposed to be taking. At another point I was able to ask a bicyclist going the opposite direction if he had seen the group as he’d come down the trail and he was able to confirm that he had. The trail head was right next to the Draper Utah Temple, and as I turned around a corner I was able to see the temple and knew that even if I hadn’t picked exactly the right trail, I was at least heading in the right direction. As we got a little further down the trail I heard some of the other leaders calling my name and they waited until we caught up to them so that we weren’t alone on the trail and they continued with us for most of the rest of the hike. We did make it back to the trail head just before it was fully dark and I really enjoyed the chance to be out in nature and enjoying Heavenly Father’s creations with my children.
While we were hiking I thought of some analogies that I could draw from the experience. The most interesting one to me was watching Maeli on the hike. She was doing something that clearly she was not qualified for. I didn’t bring her on a 3 mile hike because I thought that a 19 month old should be able to do that on her own. I brought her with the intention that I would help her along the way, and that she would be given ample assistance by me and the other adults. At first she accepted that help for the most part and we were able to get her through what was the easier part of the journey. Then she refused assistance for most of the more difficult part of the journey. Instead she would fall and sit and rub her banged up knees while we were standing there willing and wanting to help her get through the hike without too much more pain and suffering. Because she was going so slowly we all fell behind and barely made it back before it would have been too late.
As I watched this it made me think about all of us here on earth. Sometimes we are faced with challenges that are enormous – far outside our capacity to do it on our own. Our Heavenly Father puts those challenges before us, but he also puts a support system around us to help us through it. How often do we refuse the assistance of others because “Oh, this is a walk!” or as we might say “No, I need to do this on my own. This is my challenge and I will do it myself.” I wonder if the Lord looks at us and says, “You ninny! I didn’t want you to do it on your own. You don’t need you to do it on your own… that’s why I put all that support system around you!” He doesn’t intend for us to get through this life on our own, he wants us to do it with the help of our family, friends, church leaders, co-workers, neighbors, random people on the street. Why do we insist on doing things ourselves while our family and friends stand by wanting to help us, but instead force them to watch us as we fall down and bang up our knees and sit there and cry? There is no shame in getting help from other people. You don’t get points docked in some cosmic final exam for taking hands that are outstretched to you. In fact, I think one of the great objectives on that test is to see if we will work together with others. Plus, it’s good for them if they can help you to get off the trail to where you’ll be able to work towards your next goal instead of keeping them back on the trail with you. Our friends and family will no more abandon us in the trials of our life than I would have left Maeli there on the trail to get back on her own. If you’re going through hard times, please accept help from those who are reaching out to you. The important thing is to get to the end of the trail and then be able to help others – don’t get caught up in thinking you ought to do it alone, you were never meant to do it alone.
The other thing that made me think was all of the different ways we were able to receive guidance to know that we were on the right trail. I think when we are looking for direction in our life we can do a lot of the same things. I was able to use my cell phone to get guidance – and we can seek inspiration through prayer. I was able to ask a bicyclist on the same trail for his knowledge – we can counsel with who are passing through life with us for their help. My friends called for me and waited for me – we can lean on the support of friends and family that are watching out for us. My friends set another example for me . We should also try to be like those leaders and watch for those who may have fallen behind or could be lost. We are our brother’s keeper and we will be responsible for having done all we could to help them along the path – who do you need to call out to and help bring them safely home? Most importantly, we need to be sure our focus is always on the temple. If at the checkpoints in your life you can see that your journey is bringing you closer to Christ then you know you’re on the right path. Keep going and keep working towards it and the light of Christ will guide you home.