Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Little Rock, Arkansas was a happening place to be yesterday. Everywhere I looked there were children, dogs, mothers and fathers, laughing friends, college students and the retired. It was a beautiful day to be outside.
There was also a lot of bickering, most of it coming from unwilling friends and family members being guilted into hiking to the peak of the mountain, a task that can seem a bit daunting when one looks up to see the top third of the mountain is nothing but boulders and scrub brush. The trail is marked by small tin signs numbering one through ten, a comfort when you finally see the ’10’ but a discouragement when you’ve barely passed a ‘1’ or ‘2’.
I had victoriously defeated my aching side and burning lungs to reach the top. On my way down and nearing the bottom, I heard a lady complaining to her friends, holding her ribs and gasping for air.
The hiker I have affectionately nicknamed Gasper groused, “Heavens, the air is so thin up here!”
Her friends scolded her, trying not to grin, “Marg, we haven’t even made it to marker one yet!”
She waved a dismissal hand and panted. “Nah, the air seems thin to me. I’d better stop.” Her friends burst into gales of laughter and I found myself chuckling as well. Gasper had not even gone a tenth of a mile on a fairly flat trail. In fact, from her spot where she gave up, I could see the parking lot not ten feet below!
So was the air too thin? No. Unless a random person thinks Little Rock, Arkansas is the equivalent of the Rockies. Gasper could have easily made the climb. She looked healthy, fit and young. But she didn’t want to make the climb. It was obvious from the banter that she had been strong-armed into the adventure by her mountain-loving friends. She had already made up her mind that she couldn’t do it because, deep down, she really had no desire to do it.
Though Gasper made me giggle, her silly antics caused a moment of reflection. How often have I made excuses for my behavior? How often have I blamed others when fighting the heavy tug of a bad attitude? How often do we blame our mess on our families, our environment, our culture or our church? How many times have I thought, “You know, I would be a lot closer to the Lord if I wasn’t so ridiculously busy with my kids”? Or the ever popular, “This is just my personality. I can’t change it!”
Excuses and deceptions aside, here is what I have learned: I’m as close to the Lord as I want to be.
Did you get that? That one sentence, that one blaring truth will change your life if you let it. You are as close to the Lord as you want to be.
We tend to make time for things that are important to us. That’s the honest truth. Years ago, my manager said, “You have exactly what you want right now.” The scraping rawness of that statement slammed into me like a brick being thrown against an iron door. It’s true…convinctingly so.
We say we want to lose weight but when we refuse to stop eating chocolate and potato chips, we’ve made a choice. We want that food more than we want to be thin. We want to go to Disney world on vacation but we can’t seem to stop buying new clothes which keeps the financial cushion from swelling. We’ve made a choice. We want those clothes more than we want our dream vacation. We want to spend more time reading our Bibles but can’t seem to let go of checking our Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Do you see what I mean?
So when we feel unhappy or unsatisfied, somewhere along the way we’ve made a decision. We’ve traded God’s best for our own desires, a swap that always leaves us empty. We get it set in our minds that our circumstances are someone else’s fault, that we are powerless to change, that God couldn’t possibly use us, that our situation is hopeless…and on and on it goes. We replace God’s Word, His promises and His truth with a cold, muddy lie—like, freshly mixed concrete that fills our spirits, pushing everything else out.
Here’s the thing about concrete: the longer it sits, the harder it gets.
Maybe you’ve been told all your life that you’re worthless or a mistake. Perhaps you’ve been labeled by your family or coworkers as lazy, stupid or incompetent. Maybe you’ve been abused so long you think it’s what you deserve. Perhaps Satan has had such a hey day in your life that you think you’re beyond hope.
I’m as living proof to tell you that you’re none of those things. Stop believing the lies. You are not helpless. Through God’s transforming power, He can change you from the inside out. Sometimes it’s a painful process but the result is so worth it, a marked contrast like the difference between a worm and a butterfly.
Stop with the excuses. The air is not too thin for you up here on the mountain. If there are issues you need help with, demons to be fought, wounds that need to be healed, you’re not alone. I’m walking this journey with you.
You can change. God can transform you but we have to stop believing the lies and allow Him to replace those old thoughts with His truth. It’s an active participation with the Holy Spirit. Why else would He have given us so many promises in His Word about His ability to change the concrete heart if it weren’t possible for Him?
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” ~Romans 5:1-5
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” ~2 Corinthians 5:17
What excuses do you find yourself making? Do you feel ready to let them go and let God heal the wounds you’ve been hiding?