Our family is currently in Greece taking a break from Central Asia and having some concentrated time as a family. Yesterday our family took a hike up to an observation point on top of the hill. It was refreshing to be out walking, breathing fresh air, and just feeling free on the outside not just the inside. The trail had a lot of switchbacks and often I felt like we were going away from our goal instead of toward it. Sounds a lot like this last year, doesn’t it? My daughter pointed out we just had to take one step at a time. If we would have went straight up without the switchbacks, the way would have been too hard and almost impossible. After almost two hours and many switchbacks, we finally reached the top and the view was amazing. From the top, we were able to see the mountains, the villages below, and the sea all in one glance. We finally were able to see the big picture. Each switchback had its purpose allowing us to reach our final goal.
I wonder if Mary felt like she was on a trail like the one we were on. First, she travels all the way to Bethlehem to be registered, and Jesus in born. Then their family flees to Egypt to escape from Herod. Life goes on. They move to Nazareth. Jesus grows up and somewhere along the way Joseph dies. Jesus begins his ministry but it is nothing like Mary imagined. As she watches, I am sure she wondered how all the prophecies would be fulfilled. We know from scripture that Mary was a woman who pondered things in her heart and sought to do God's will. Still, I am sure she often felt that she was heading in the wrong direction instead of toward the final goal. It is only at the end that the big picture was seen. In the end, she was able to see Jesus was the savior of the world that was prophesied long ago.
This year has been full of switchbacks for our family. Part of the year was spent in the states and part in Central Asia. We were together and apart. We were on lockdowns and said way too many good byes. Each step of the way, God was with us guiding our steps. He knew we needed to be with mom as her church celebrated 100 years. He knew Winter and David needed some experiences like driving and helping at camps. He knew Noel needed all his focus on his work without us around to do the job he needed to do in Central Asia. When we were weary, he strengthened us. When we were down, he gave us glimpses of hope. I can't wait to see the big picture of it all when we get to heaven.
This Christmas, I see a lot of switchbacks in our future. Will we be able to stay in Central Asia long term? What about schooling for my kids? I am finding that switchbacks are not bad as long as I am traveling with my Savior and Lord. My tendency is to complain and want a straight path. Hopefully I am learning to take each switchback with grace and anticipation of what God will teach me. With God, switchbacks are part of the journey, part of the learning to be more like him. So my prayer this year is that I will follow faithfully and steadfastly with my eyes on Jesus.
What kind of switchbacks have you had this year? What has God taught you?
Merry Christmas!! TJ