tom walsh

Sometimes life does get difficult.  There are times it seems when I'm trudging uphill with no end to the climb in sight--I look ahead and all I see is more hill, more climbing, more struggle.  These are the times when it's easy to get discouraged, to feel that there's no real purpose in going on because there's not going to be any relief from the difficult times.

But I took a bike ride yesterday that illustrates to me the importance not just of going on, continuing to trudge, but also the importance of pushing ourselves that little extra while going up that hill.  Heading north from our house, there's a beautiful little road that's paved for fifteen miles, then turns to dirt.  The problem is that it's a road that leads into the mountains, so it's almost all uphill from where we live.  I had gone a few miles out on it before, but yesterday I wanted to go to the spot where it turns to dirt.

If you've ever ridden a bike uphill, you know the struggle involved, especially when the road gets steep.  The beauty of riding uphill, though, is that you know that eventually what goes up must come down--you're going to have to descend if you spend a lot of time ascending.  So as I pushed myself up some of the hills that were extremely difficult yesterday, I kept reminding myself that this very same hill that's causing me great grief at the moment will be a hill that will bring me great satisfaction later when I'm heading in the other direction.

And that type of reminder is very important to me.  When I was down in the very low gears, riding at just four or five miles an hour uphill, I knew that when I was heading in the other direction I'd be able to coast with no effort at all except to steer the bike.

Whenever life throws me some difficult times these days, I remind myself of all the runs that I've done and bike rides that I've taken that have involved hills and mountains.  I know that it's important to keep in mind the fact that this too shall pass, these difficult times are like the uphill trudging that I do, that eventually becomes downhill coasting as long as I persevere and keep on going up that hill.

One of the most important parts of this principle, though, is recognizing when I'm just not ready for a particular hill, or when this hill just isn't worth the effort.  I couldn't have done the thirty miles yesterday if I hadn't trained for it--I couldn't head out on my bike one day without any practice at all and expect to do the climbing I did yesterday.  Likewise, there are other hills around that simply wouldn't be worth the effort because they're too dangerous or because the road isn't paved or because my bike couldn't handle it.  We do have to have the discernment necessary to choose our battles--the hills that we challenge--wisely.

The reward yesterday came almost immediately--it took me 90 minutes to do the 15 miles north, but once I turned around it took me only 50 minutes to do the same distance back home.  There were points at which I hit 30 and 40 mph, coasting, without having to pedal.  In life, too, I know that these downhills come along, times when things go well, when we accomplish what we want seemingly without having to put forth any real effort.  We have to remember that when we're struggling, we're struggling to get to the top of a hill, when all that we've learned from the struggle will come together to help us, to give us the chance to coast downhill for a while until our next great struggle comes up.

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Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.
It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth,
we transcend it.  Once we truly know that life is difficult--once we
truly understand and accept it--then life is no longer difficult.
Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is
difficult no longer matters.

M. Scott Peck



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