I recently climbed a mountain blindfolded.
Before you think I’m crazy (or lying) – it was part of a leadership challenge for our Flood Youth student leadership team. We split up into teams, had to race to the top, and various members in our group had disabilities – blind, mute, a broken arm. I know, I know. I gave up my weekend to go on a student leadership retreat AND I was the voluntary blind member of our team?? I’m waiting to be declared a saint. Any day now…
I learned a lot on that hike. Staying hydrated while hiking in 102 degree weather is a great idea. Not taking high school students on a hike when it’s 102 degrees is a better idea. I learned that communication is so very important – “Krysti! Watch out!” as I was about to step into a cactus. Yet I also learned that clear communication is even more important – “Krysti, watch out for that cactus on your left!” helps a lot more than “Hey watch out for that!” That?? I’m blindfolded. ‘That’ can be a giant cactus or giant ditch or a rock I’m about to walk into or a million other things that my imagination is having way too much fun conjuring up.
I learned that when you don’t know what’s ahead, you need someone who has already walked the same road. Someone yelling from behind, “This part might be difficult!” is great and all. But there’s nothing better than someone directly in front of you, who you can trust, telling you where to step forward. “Put your foot here, it’s where I put mine.” “The step up is pretty high, but then it levels out.” “This part is slippery, but you’ll make it. I did.” The same goes for life, right? Friends walking alongside you are great, and so, so needed. For encouragement, for laughs, for company. But you need someone who has walked this road before – this new job, this hard break up, this particular season of life. You need someone to guide your steps who knows the path.
After a while, I learned to give in to my blindness. The first half hour or so, I was fighting against it with everything I had. I was straining against my blindfold, trying to catch glimpses of the ground, of my surroundings. This just exhausted me, distracted me from listening to my team – who could actually see! – and confused me even more. As I saw random patches of dirt, my tennis shoes, or sunlight, I tried to make sense of it all …. which I couldn’t. Because I didn’t have the whole picture. Because I was, helllllllllo, blind. In certain seasons of life, you have certain disabilities. Give in to them. Don’t try to fight the losing battle.
I started off resenting my blindness. Yet when I came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to see for the next hour or so, it opened me up to what I could do: listen to my team, ask questions, feel in front of me with my hands, not take on the responsibility of deciding the best trail to the top. Coming to terms with my disability was more freeing than I could have imagined. I’m learning, in life, to accept my shortcomings and lean in to my weaknesses – which frees me to use my strengths. There’s no use in bemoaning to God why I don’t have a certain skill set; I’m far more useful to Him if I’m utilizing the one He gave me.
When we got to the finish line (first, I might add!), I finally got to remove my very sweaty blindfold. Up to this point I had scaled rocks on all fours, brushed up against some unfriendly cacti, been literally pulled / pushed up the side of a mountain by my team, and some other very intense “hiking” activities. After being blinded by the sudden, blaring light, I looked down at the trail we just came up and…. was baffled. Because there was no trail. We had just scaled the random side of a mountain. I had just scaled the random side of a mountain. Blindfolded. Me.
In case you don’t personally know me, I’m clumsy. Clumsy with a capital C. I don’t go through a day without tripping over nothing, dropping things for no reason, or somehow injuring myself with simple objects like the wall, my phone, a spoon. So when my team pointed to the side of the mountain this klutz had seemingly climbed, I thought it was a joke. I was waiting for the, “Juuuuuuust kidding, look over there. That’s the super easy trail we really took you on – see the escalator?”
As reality sunk in, I humbly realized the only way I got through the hike was because I was blindfolded. If I hadn’t been, I would have looked at the non-trail, the rocks we had to climb, the non-existent footholds they had, and the numerous poky plants that would “catch” me from my inevitable falls…. and volunteered to wait at the bottom. I would have been the world’s worst youth leader, bailing on a leadership challenge and making my students go on without me. I would have seen the challenge in front of me and known there was absolutely, positively no way I could do it. I know myself and all, ya know?
Except, blindfolded, I mad it to the top. Blindfolded, I managed to escape injury (it should be noted at one point I almost climbed off the side of a rock, thanks team for your very clear, “STOP!!!!”). Blindfolded, I did what I would have assumed impossible.
I think God sometimes blinds us for this very reason. Because we take one look at the scary and think, “There’s no way I’m doing that! I’ll wait in the car”. We take one look at the unknown and say, “Things might be great on the other side, but I won’t survive the journey…”. Instead, occasionally, He blinds us to the hike, He blinds us to the challenges. He walks ahead of us, into that scary and unknown, and says simply, “Follow Me. You can do this. Keep walking.”
Sometimes I resent the blindness – I want to know exactly what I’m agreeing to, exactly what is down the road. Okay, most of the time I resent the blindness. I’m in the middle of the hike, er…. life, brushing up against cacti and having to rely on people to push me up a mountain. God! I want to be able to see. I want to do this on my own. I want be done with this stupid hike already!!! But I’m learning maybe He blinds us for our benefit and He blinds us for a greater good; He blinds us to empower us to achieve the seemingly impossible Because you know what? Later – days, weeks, years – He unties that sweaty blindfold from our eyes, enjoys seeing the amazement in our eyes, and says, “Look down at everything you conquered! Everything we conquered. I knew you could do it.”
*It should also be noted that on the way down from this hike – sans blindfold – I managed to trip and sprain my ankle. On a completely flat section of an actual trail. Life’s ironic, right? Especially for us clumsy folks.