Welcome to Hard Times

One year the first edition of our high school newspaper had an article with the above title. The basic idea of the text was that we as students should be prepared to work hard, both in and out of class. The article said that high school is preparing us for life. And because life can be challenging, we should expect at least some of our high school experience to be challenging as well. Rather than avoid or run away from those experiences, the author went on to say, we should actually look forward to them as opportunities to grow and mature.

Early one spring, more than forty years after I read this article, my wife and I were at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The morning we were leaving, I was taking some of our luggage out to our car when I noticed a few flakes of snow falling through the frigid air. On my second trip out to the car, the light snow had turned into a sleet storm. When I told my wife what was happening, we decided to delay our departure for a bit because of the potential photographic opportunities. With the temperature around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, we knew that, even with our cold weather gear, we would become chilled. Nevertheless, we willingly opened our car doors and walked to the edge of Yavapai Point overlook. As we worked with our cameras for about an hour, all exposed skin turned beet red. The cold penetrated our gloved-hands, numbing our fingers.

Whether or not to knowingly enter a challenging, difficult environment is a choice I’ve faced many times in my photographic journey and along the path of faith. While I try to make good decisions and not take foolish chances, sometimes the right thing to do is to firmly grasp the handle, open the door, and walk out to face physical discomfort, stress, risk, heartache, even tears. The apostle Paul often felt God leading him into perilous situations. And Paul willingly went.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of choices in life as wide and narrow gates. Perhaps because of my long involvement with information technology, I think of these choices in terms of menus and drop down boxes on a computer screen. In most cases where there is more than one possibility, there is a pre-selected option: the default. I believe the wide gate in life is the default. Choosing the narrow gate requires consciously selecting a different way.

At the Grand Canyon, the default would have been to leave, head south to blue skies and warmer weather. But we didn’t. And, as with other thoughtful, prayerful choices, it made a welcome difference (as you can see below).