It's the middle of winter. Long, cold, frozen Canadian winter.
Now, lest I perpetuate an exaggerated stereotype about the Great White North, let me clarify that winter in Toronto is very similar to winter in New York and many other northeastern states.
Nonetheless, after a few weeks of sub-zero temperatures, even if you love certain things about winter like I truly do, you find your mind occasionally drifting to warmer places. Today I've been thinking about the place our family visits each summer: Prince Edward Island. I've been thinking about the feeling of the sun warming my skin and the sound of gently crashing waves. And I've been remembering some of our favorite family stories.
There's one from a couple years back that just might be my favorite . . .
Are We There Yet?
It was the summer our children were 1, 3, and 5 years old. It had been a wonderful two weeks of swimming, building sand castles, fishing, eating seafood, and mostly just spending time with family. On the last day, my husband persuaded me and the kids to join him on a small adventure.
The tide was at just the right place where we could walk across a fairly sizeable sandbar in order to get to a small island about a hundred feet from the main island. This island was several miles long and had massive sand dunes stretching as far as you could see. Justin wanted us to walk to the tallest dune and then climb to the top of it. It didn't look that far away, and we started our short journey in good spirits.
Before long, though, we heard the dreaded words: Are we there yet? I'm getting tired. Justin encouraged our boys that they were doing well, and it would be worth the effort.
But something funny happens with sand dunes (or any kind of hills and peaks, really). As you get nearer, you realize that they're actually farther away than they originally appeared. At the beginning of a journey, the highest dune off in the distance doesn't look that far, but as you continue trudging along (while carrying children), you begin to realize that the journey is going to be longer and harder than you first thought.
In total, we only walked about a mile or so each way. But if you've ever walked a mile with three small kids, you know that a mile can be quite the excursion. I'm tired. I'm hungry. I need a toilet. I need to be carried. I need to walk. And on it went. I wish I could claim a super-cool-wife award in this story and say that I was nothing but enthusiastic and supportive about Justin's adventure. But unfortunately, I can clearly remember muttering at one point, "Three small kids on a mile-long hike. I'm married to a lunatic, aren't I?" Or something sweet and encouraging along those lines.
But Justin kept prodding us along. At long last we got to the dune that, for so long, had been off in the distance. Hot and tired, we trudged and climbed our way to the top.
The Hard Journey Was Worth It
I remember it like it was yesterday—that moment when we first arrived at the top and looked around. The ocean wind cooled us, and stretching in each direction around us were white beaches, sparkling blue waves, and shimmering eel grass. If we looked north, there were peaceful, pastoral farm fields; if south, unending blue. We stood there, the five of us, just taking it in. Justin glanced over at me with a smile and simply said, "Hey. Was this worth it?" He saw my face and knew my response without me saying a word.
All those things that can seem so elusive during the journey are ours in perfection and abundance when we finally arrive.
We sat there at the top of the dune for quite awhile. We had a snack. We sang "How Great Thou Art." We enjoyed the beauty around us. And Justin and I talked about how sometimes during the journey it seems so pointless, and it only becomes worth it once you've arrived.
God has built all these little moments, these personal illustrations, into our ordinary experiences to help us better understand the bigger picture—the bigger journey.
In the journey of life and faith, we can grow so tired, can't we? We sometimes feel like we're barely trudging along, putting one tired foot in front of another. Weary. Empty. Spent. And, many times, it doesn't feel like we're really going anywhere all that special anyway.
One of the ways God enables us to keep on walking is with reminders of what awaits us at the end of the journey: Christ Himself. And with Christ, perfect peace, rest, grace, joy, love. All those things that can seem so elusive during the journey are ours in perfection and abundance when we finally arrive.
The sweetest moment, the deepest joy, the purest love, the most glorious Prince Edward Island summer afternoon are but a faint glimpse of what awaits us at the end of the journey.
On this side of eternity we live through many long winters. But during the cold, frozen gray of winter, we're supposed to be dreaming about the warm, life-giving sun of summertime . . . and the ultimate Summer it points to. Are you dreaming of summer during these cold months?