I wanted to quit.
He wanted to quit.
Yet we were 2 miles from our destination. It was raining, windy, and cold. I could see in his heavy steps that this was no longer a fun time with Dad. It was no longer the romantic idea of "roughing it" in the wilderness; it was now just a sinking feeling in the chest and the push to reach our destination. He was driven by the desire to be wearing dry clothes and be sitting in a warm and dry car.
I have to admit, my 40-something feet were aching and heavy as well. I was fighting my own battle with discouragement as it seemed that our goal was coming a lot slower than I would like. I knew I could not show my frustration with my pain, so I tried to encourage him.
"You know," I said, trying to be the father-sage, "you don't persevere in something unless you have to face times you want to quit. I don't feel great right now, but we just need to push through this."
He let out a typical teenage guttural sound, but seemed to at least hear what I was trying to say. We walked on without saying much more.
As we walked, I thought about what I had told him. Those things we admire the most in others - perseverance, courage, patience, and determination - all require adversity. Courage cannot exist without fear; patience can't be shown without failure; and perseverance and determination don't happen without discouragement. So why do we want these things? What is their point?
You don't get strong unless you first hurt. Adversity is a far better teacher than ease. Pain trains us better than bliss.
Rest is much sweeter when you are denied it for a time. Reaching a goal through trials and discouragement is much more fulfilling than having it come easy.
We didn't get much of a view from the mountain. There was a nice crop of white quartz at the summit, but the view was completely shrouded in clouds. "It was pointless to walk this whole way just to see some white rocks" he said to me in discouragement. I held my tongue.
Pointless? I think he was just tired and cold. He told his mother he enjoyed the trip and wants to do it some more, so I don't think he really felt it was pointless. Was it fun? I don't think I would go that far, but it was satisfying.
This morning I looked over the week ahead at work: a full schedule of patients. Lots of needs, lots of problems to solve. Sometimes I love what I do, but other times it gets tiring. It seems like I am fighting a battle I cannot win. I am fixing plenty of problems and helping plenty of people; but I know that tomorrow there will be just as many hurting people needing my help. Day after day, week after week, year after year, people will keep coming with their problems for me to solve, with their needs to be met.
It seems a lot like hiking. All I am doing is hiking a long way to look at white rocks and then trudging back to camp. Have I accomplished something? Have I really made progress? Like hiking, it is not the end, but the process. I am learning perseverance, patience, courage, and determination. Each battle holds its challenge; each day may hold times I feel like giving up. That is not a bad thing - it is expected. What do I get out of it?
OK, I think I can do another mile.
The above is pretty much accurate (although the pictures are off the web). I ended up going with just my older son, who is nearly 15. It is probably good that my younger son did not come because of the weather and our inexperience. We learned a lot and got to spend good time together.
Oh yes, and I learned a lot about World of Warcraft. He is an undead warlock. I am proud.
He's a good kid.