Recently, my family attended a family wedding on the Isle of Mull, in Scotland. It's an ethereal and quite remote place where, around every turn, you are faced with the wonder of God's creation. It's breathtaking, and I urge you to go there sometime (though, please don't expect to have cell service or call for takeout!)
My husband Stephen, my daughter Paige and I did lots of walking while we were there. In fact, we climbed Ben More, the largest mountain on the island one day. It was quite a feat, I must say, for Steve and I, let alone 8-year old Paige. I've told most everyone already about the fact that she did it on her own, and consider yourself duly informed now, too.
While you didn't need to actually scale any cliff faces to make it to the top, it was a steady climb from the shore of the loch all the way up to the summit, where you could look down on the snow-topped nearby mountains below, and see all the way to the mainland of Scotland, and even Ireland. It truly felt like being on the top of the world, and it was an insane accomplishment for Paige.
On the way to the top, the footing and the features of the land changed several times: sheep pasture foothills to rock-strewn incline, to steep scree slope that you had to traverse to climb up, and then, above the cloud in the strange misty windy last push to the summit, it felt a little like a bit of the moon stuck up in the sky that you were going up. Along each change, the urge to stop and rest an maybe just congratulate yourself on how far you'd come was very tempting. We told Paige all along the way that she was going to make it to the top, and we were going to help encourage her, so that she could see that hard things are worth doing sometimes, and they other hard things seem easier. We told her to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, to look down, and focus on where she put her feet so that every step would count toward getting her to the top.
On the final push to the summit, Paige had blisters in her boots, her little legs were failing her, and she had drank all of her water and eaten all her snacks. I was exhausted, and Steve, even though he was getting tire too, had pushed on ahead as I would take breaks with Paige. I found myself encouraging (sometimes even threatening a little) Paige to keep going, and to look ahead to her Daddy, who was climbing up ahead. If she kept her little eyes on her big strong Daddy, along with the knowledge that I was behind her if she slipped, but also that the same hand that would catch her would send her forward if she whined any more, she knew that she could keep going. One of the most encouraging things we did together was when we stopped and carefully turned around to look behind us and see how far and how high we had climbed. If we made it this far, surely we could find the strength to do the rest.
So many times in life we are presented with challenges. Personal goals that can be either wishes and dreams, or a call to action. How we prepare ourselves for those goals is very important.
Just like I learned with little Paige's climb, it's important to have someone behind, to keep pushing, but to also catch you if you slip: A cheerleader, taskmaster, and savior all in one. Ahead, you must have the leader, the mental image of where you need to be: the person who is ahead of you, doing what you want to do, and doing it with the strength and courage you need to do it.
Most of us already know we need coaches in our daily riding: someone to go to when it all goes wrong. But we also need heroes. We need those people who are forging ahead and doing what we want to do. Maybe it's a mom who finds time to train and ride and show her own horse. Maybe it's the grand prix rider who also has a full-time job. Perhaps it's the well-known eventer who rides a horse as equally crazy as your own, and who (you swear you've seen) also crosses themselves before they go in to ride their dressage test. We need heroes. We don't need to know their entire lives and we certainly don't need to know what their facebook status is every day. We just need someone to look ahead to , like Paige had her Daddy, and know that if they can do it, we can certainly try. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time.