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Friday, August 15, 2008

Lesson learned on a Pioneer Trek

Two summers ago Marc and I participated in a "Pioneer Trek" with the youth in our church. It was obviously a much smaller scale trek than what the pioneers experienced in the 1850s. We definitely didn't cover thousands of miles and didn't suffer nearly what they went through. Still, it's amazing the lessons that we learned in just a couple of days of attempting to walk in their shoes.

Marc and I were the "Ma" and "Pa" over a group of 10 youth. Each "family" was provided a handcart, that was packed with all of our supplies for the 3-day trek. As a family, we had to pull our handcart through fields, up hills, across dried riverbeds, down hills, with each member in the family sharing in that duty.

There is one experience from the trek that I've been thinking about a lot today.

As "parents" we were informed in advance of some of the surprises along the way. One of those was a long, steep hill that we would cover on the first night of the trek, at about 10pm. This specific part of the trek was to be done only by the girls in each family. At the base of the hill we were told to quietly ask the boys to stop pushing or pulling the handcart, leaving only the girls in each family to pull the handcart to the top of the hill on their own.

In our family, that meant we had four girls pulling a very full and very heavy cart. At first they did okay. But, as the hill got more steep and their energy more drained, it was clear that they were seriously struggling. At one point they were having such a hard time that the handcart almost started rolling backwards.

It was very painful to watch them struggle. It took everything in me NOT to step in and help push that cart up the hill. When they made it to the top of the hill, though, I wanted to be able to tell them that they did it. I didn't want to take away that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment from them. I wanted them to learn something about themselves - that they were strong and able to do something really difficult.

That simple experience ended up being a very important learning moment for me. For the first time in my life I understood a very small portion of what it must be like for a loving Father to stand back and watch as we struggle up life's very steep and painful hills. For an Omnipotent God to exercise such restraint from reaching out and saving us from every heartache and challenge in life must be almost unbearable. It isn't that I thought he stood carelessly back, uninterested in my life... it just had never occurred to me the sorrow it would cause Him to not intervene, when it would be so easy for Him to make everything perfect. I'm just grateful that, while he may not remove my steep hills, I am still able to feel His gentle encouragement and loving support that give me the strength to keep on going.

I know He could have worked some miracle in my life on July 16th, that would have made everything work out perfectly the way I wanted it to go. But, there are reasons why things turned out the way they did. And, though I don't have a clear picture or answers to why things happened the way they did, I trust completely in a loving, all-knowing, all-powerful Father in Heaven.

Among other things, these kinds of experiences in life allow God to pull out of us what He already sees within us. As tragic and heart-breaking as the last month has been for us, I'm grateful for the strengthened relationship I've found with God, for the Savior's tangible comfort that has come in dark hours, and for the change all of this is having on my heart. I think I will find myself completely agreeing with Elder Maxwell's assessment:

"In retrospect, we will even see that our most trying years here will often have been our best years, producing large tree rings on our soul, Gethsemanes of growth!"


Allred Mom said...

You have such powerful and faith promoting blogs, Megan! Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful insight! Hugs to you!

Amy said...

You're so insightful. Whenever I read your blog, I feel like I'm reading the Ensign.
I just can't help but feel that God is preparing you two for someting really significant in your lives.
I'm just thinking about you....

Anonymous said...

Your strength is amazing! Every time I read a post of yours I feel uplifted and inspired and yet I'm not going through the same trial as but going through a trial none the less. Thanks so much for sharing both your heartache and your strength with me.

Anonymous said...

Your strength is amazing! Every time I read a post of yours I feel uplifted and inspired and yet I'm not going through the same trial as but going through a trial none the less. Thanks so much for sharing both your heartache and your strength with me.

Allred Fam said...

Wonderful insight.... I love this one also- from James E. Faust, “Refined in Our Trials,” Liahona, Feb 2006. 

"I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’ 

He continues: ‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company." Beth

Andrea said...

You are truely amazing Megan! I love the insight you have. I gain such comfort and strength by reading your words. It helps me make it through another day without my Wyatt. Thank you Megan!

Leslie said...

i wanted to thank you for what you wrote on my blog.
i came to your blog to see who you are and i couldn't believe the 'hill' YOU are climbing.
i am so sorry for the loss you are experiencing. it is very admirable the way you are choosing to bear this burden.
thank you for your strength and courage.

Mindy said...

Again, you don't know me. :) But, I love what you wrote. Love it!