A couple of years ago I went to Logan, Utah for the weekend and was able to spend some one on one time with my son Dakota. It was a breathtaking adventure in more ways than one. We went 4 wheeling in his truck. I was touched by the way he watched out for me as he took me on some scary roads yet confidently navigated rocks, twists and turns. We talked about what an amazing metaphor the road trip was for life. I came away from that adventure learning 6 critical things.
Dakota had asked me, “Are you Okay with going on a bumpy rough road?” and I said “Of course! It sounds fun.” I thought to myself, “I am tough, I can handle a bit of jostling and rough roads.” I hadn’t anticipated that we would be driving up a mountain with a steep ledge on one side where we could fall off and roll down the mountain!
As Dakota and I started out we hadn’t gone far when I became frightened. I told Dakota, “I might have a heart attack.” At that moment I thought, “Wow this never occurred to me when Dakota asked me if I was willing.” Lesson 1 – How many times in life have I headed into a hard situation and after starting out thought, “I don’t know if I can do this.” How many times have I moved forward anyway not letting fear drive my decisions? Biologically we are built to move forward and progress. Forward progression releases dopamine and hormones that help increase confidence. The scriptures repeatedly tell us to not be afraid. Sometimes we have to have courage and just keep moving forward.
Dakota looked over at me and wavered a bit. He could hear the fear in my voice and I think he didn’t want me to be afraid or have a heart attack. But he knew his truck and he knew his capabilities and he said “we are fine.” His confidence made me feel confident so we kept going. Lesson 2 – How often do we not know our abilities or don’t actually-have the ability so we have to rely on someone else for help. Do we ask for help or do we stay stuck? Do we freeze in fear and don’t push ourselves to build new abilities and skills or worse do we find a way to turn around and go back to our comfort zone and what’s familiar. We have to learn how to trust others.
Dakota and I kept going. At one point further along, the road became narrower, steeper and bumpier. I told Dakota to stop and let me out so I could walk. Even though he was telling me “it is fine”, he stopped and let me out. Lesson 3 – There have been so many times in my life where I have said “Man this is scary or too hard” and instead of staying in I said let me out. I will walk or do this on my own. Those times when I couldn’t bring myself to be all in and work together because it didn’t feel safe. So I took the harder yet more reliable route and walked up the hill alone. While we need to hold ourselves accountable, sometimes we also need to give ourselves grace when it feels too hard or easier to go it alone. There are lessons to be learned from that as well.
Dakota drove up the road and finally stopped again and said “Get in. It’s fine!” Silently saying my prayers I got back in and we continued to climb and get tossed about. Eventually we came to another hard part of the road. This time Dakota said you need to get out. So I did. Lesson 4 – We have those times too! When we have to get out. There may be places where it may not seem like everything is ok, we feel uncertain, or we wonder if we are being protected. Sometimes being looked after means we have to do the hard thing on our own. Yet we are never truly alone.
Eventually we made it through that hard spot in the road and had a nice break for a bit. With each scary bit of road Dakota analyzed the trail, planning where to drive and put each tire to keep us from high centering, hitting the oil pan, or falling over. With each little rough patch he would say “Well if we made it through that we will be fine now, and then we laughed when we came to another hard thing.” Gradually with each hard thing our confidence grew. And, the next obstacle would show up. Like the time the path was too narrow and we couldn’t fit through the trees. Dakota pulled out a few more tools wrapping up the tree and putting the truck in reverse, he pulled the tree trunk out of the way then moved us forward again. Lesson 5 – We don’t need to focus on the whole journey, just the next thing and having the right tools to remove the roadblock. That doesn’t mean we don’t have an end goal in mind. It just means the way to the end is taking the next step or removing the immediate block in our path.
Finally we were on top of the world. What a beautiful view. We could see all around in every direction and the road was smooth and wide. Going down was a whole new experience. Putting the truck in low gear and inching down little by little. Lesson 6 – It wasn’t lost on me how important it is to have patience and acknowledge inching forward is still moving in the right direction.
At last we merged with the main road. This was the one most people take to get to the lake. It’s a dirt road and seemingly simple compared to the dotted line road we had just come from. Sure we could have gone that way but we would have missed out on all the amazing lessons learned and confidence, courage, and skills we built.
Now we know we can do the hard thing and the beauty of the lake at our destination didn’t disappoint. Our rough road made it seem so much more peaceful and beautiful. Finally I realized Dakota took me on a path I couldn’t have gotten to on my own. What a beautiful Metaphor for asking for help and having faith in others, including Jesus Christ. It hasn’t been until late in life that I have learned the value of asking God for direction and trusting the guidance he has given me.
I have faced some very rocky roads in life and felt so overwhelmed and alone. The times I asked for guidance and more importantly submitted my will to the Lord, trusting in him, I have been able to build my confidence, skills, and courage. Like when I chose to end a 35 year marriage. It was exceptionally hard. In many ways it would have been so much easier to stay with the familiar and what I knew, like that well traveled dirt road. But my Heavenly Father had told me otherwise. Or when I moved from Utah to Arizona leaving all of my immediate family, friends, mountains, and seasons behind, again I left what was familiar and ventured into the unknown. But I was following a prompting, I didn’t know what was around the corner. I just had faith and I felt very watched over and guided once I got there and as I worked to complete my doctorate.
Now here I am again at a crossroads feeling full of possibility in my career options and interestingly enough also feeling overwhelmed and a bit lost as to what my next step should be. Thinking back to the road trip and the lessons I learned, I know who I can turn to and ask for guidance. And as I continue to build my faith I will continue to move forward because maybe this is the step I have to take seemingly alone in order to learn and grow, yet I know I am safe and always being watched over. I can’t wait to take on my next adventure and share it with you.