There is an old gospel song with the title of this blog post, and the more I think about my experience of the last few years and some of my experiences hiking with my wife, the rough side of the mountain feels like a pretty apt metaphor. There are times in our lives when it feels like every possible “other shoe” that could drop has dropped, when all the balls that were being juggled are bouncing around us and one precious ball is being cradled in our arms. The rough side of the mountain looks different depending on the burdens we carry as we climb, but in my case the helplessness of sick kids combined with community loss helped me make a huge realization about who I am and what I am called to be as a pastor and father.
In many ways I have dropped almost every other ball to focus on supporting my three-year-old daughter and to keep our home a place of warmth, welcome, joy and solace. I get to be that Daddy right now, but after so many blows it feels like I am climbing up the rough side of the rock slide. Every time it seems like we got to the bottom of all the health issues with our daughters, a deeper issue surfaced. Still happening, but the other stresses have cleared. I made it through the depression and the anxiety following the loss of a community, and now stand at this strange place of waiting. Not yet hopeful, but not despairing. Knocked to the bottom of the mountain I looked up and realized: “I have been climbing the wrong ____ing, God______, stupid mountain.” I had tried to live up to expectations that God had not created me to meet. (I will pause for the experienced pastors to twitch/grimace.)
I am called to nurture others, to live out Jesus’ care for the marginalized, the hungry, the hurting, to mentor others as they grow in faith. These come with a different set of roughness, but roughness I am designed for. Right now I have the joy of practicing my gifts of nurture by holding my hurting girls tight, giving them snuggles and kisses, singing silly songs that make them giggle, and remembering and living out who I am and what I am called to be. I am climbing the rough mountain of realizing how far I strayed from my true self, and now am finally happy to be where I am: At the bottom of a new, still rough sided, mountain. But it is my rough mountain now and not the deadly peak of others’ expectations.