The adventure challenge was quite the experience for me. It really shifted my
perspective on how I saw life through either the lens of pain or through the lens of unity, and having the mindset that not all hard things are impossible. If we create space for beautiful things to flourish in the midst of hard things then any challenge can be an adventure. There were a lot of hard parts in the challenge. I think about day 2 of our hike and how physically and emotionally hard that was for me. However I think the hardest part was having to push through. Not only pushing through pain but being willing to push through every uncomfortable feeling, mindset and restless hours. Sometimes pain, whether old or new, gets in the way of what can be so beautiful. We miss out when we focus on the pain. I often reminded myself that the journey was the destination, it didn't matter how many miles we had left or how hard it was going to be on the already torn ligaments in my ankles (I had previously injured my ankle, and though doctors advised against me going on the hike, I felt like God was asking me to push through even this). But I knew that at the end of each day there was a reward for all of us coming together to rest, share a meal and laugh together. The hardest parts can sometimes turn into the most beautiful parts when unity is found at the end of a hard day. One thing I will take away from this is that we shouldn't let hard days determine our outcomes, when you fix your eyes on Him you begin to see the Kingdom in all circumstances.
Going into this 4 day hiking trip, I had expectations of what it looked like to go through hard things with people you’ve never met and how united we were going to be in the end. That’s the growth I expected to see, to know my peers in a vulnerable place. Through this hike I learned what leadership looks like instead: “Am I willing to give everything that has helped sustain me so that my peers can finish this race with me, no matter if that means that I’m left with nothing?” In my own definition, leadership just meant to lead someone into something or to help guide them. Throughout my life I’ve struggled with some not-so-great examples of leadership. It left me with a poor taste in my mouth, and I found myself often frustrated by it. Before the hike, when I found myself in situations where I needed to lead or God asked me to step up, I am reminded of those circumstances and that feeling.
During the hike it was different, He let me lead with grace and compassion. If that meant I needed to give up my only pair of shoes to my classmate so that she could finish strong, then I was willing. If that meant that I needed to call my classmate higher then so be it. Leading doesn’t always have to look like making decisions to guide everyone from point A to point B, or to be an intimidating person. Leading looks like loving well. God redeemed my definition of leadership. Not only in me but in the leaders that led us as they led with love and joyful hearts. My heart for leadership grew in ways that brought redemption. Trusting your leaders is hard when you have had past hurt experiences, but the Adventure Challenge allowed me to see what a true leader is and the true leaders I am surrounded by everyday.
Not only did I see leadership in new ways, but I also got to see unity. I saw unity formed when my peers willingly chose to carry each other's pack. I kept thinking of how the Bible is the LIVING word of God through this. We let others carry what felt like our burdens. Sometimes that can be hard for us to give up, in a moment that is so hard we tend to just feel like our burdens are only ours to carry, but God literally gave us people to do life with and sometimes that looks like helping and loving each other well. I saw unity the most when it came to one of us needing to carry 2 packs for a friend to be able to get from Point A to Point B. It wasn’t easy to hike with 35 pound packs, especially for a long period of time or going uphill. Unity is such a precious act. Growing up in a broken home where asking for help felt like a burden, it was redeeming to see that even when other people did not ask for help, the ones who were willing to help asked anyway. Unity is formed when there is grace and kindness in the room, for us it was outdoors in the middle of the mountains. It is also a choice we had to make, our cohort over and over again chose to form unity. One of my favorite days of the hike was the last day, not because it was coming to an end, but because our fourth day was filled with lots of anticipation and emotions. This day also brought a lot of pain in my ankles and I was ready to be home and put my feet up. I remember waking up that morning and thinking “we still have 10 miles to hike in order to get home?!” It was this day that felt like a breeze but also looking up and feeling like the trail would never end. My heart knew that at the end of this hike my friends who had hope in their heart for me were waiting for me. From the very beginning I knew that this was going to be a challenge but this day was the ribbon that tied this whole adventure together. Our conversations grew deeper and more plentiful, our unity grew even stronger, and we got to the finish with the great feeling of accomplishing something so challenging and so big. To go back and think about each day individually and to know that we made it from start to finish is a great feeling. God moved in a lot of ways during the hike - we felt it physically, emotionally and mentally. It was through having faith that He would give us the strength we needed to get through the hike, mile by mile that I saw Him move.
In 4 days, the whole Adventure Challenge taught me a lot about perspective and how rewarding it was to see the beautiful scenes and walk through many different trails. There is kingdom and beauty in all things but it is a choice you have to be willing to make day after day.
Growing happens in uncomfortable spaces and scenarios. Challenges can also be fun if we shift our heart and our minds to live out of joy. My heart is grateful for the opportunity to have accomplished such a challenge.