Ahh, the great outdoors. The sights only accessible by foot, the mental challenges only brought on by fatigued legs & seemingly endless stairs. As a woman with the intense desire for having & securing “purpose”, sometimes I find myself asking myself why I’m walking up that stupidly steep mountain, just to walk down it… just to get somewhere that a road will surely pass by… But then I swallow my words, as accomplishment brought by pushing myself out of my comfort zone and taking a moment to breathe the untainted air, allows me to take in the hundreds of peaks and, in this case, snow-capped forests I am gazing upon.
iking is all still pretty new to me. I spent a good 20 years of my life being pretty dang lazy, but now I’m up, I’m out and I’m exploring. Through this recent lecture phase of the Pathfinders Discipleship Training School (DTS), God has taken a few moments to draw me back to moments in my childhood that the life I lead now was actually a deep down desire I had had for a long time. I did spend 20 years of my life being pretty dang lazy, but that was a result of not gaining access to actualise those deeper desires. But now! Well, here I am.
When I first started with Pathfinders, I really sought validation through the completion of the hike and especially through the pace in which that completion was accomplished. It started as needing to prove to myself that I was capable, but then it started merging into proving my worth & value by being at the same level, if not better, than others (let’s be real for a moment, why not). It seems that when you spend 20 years of your life as a lazy sod, the need to prove yourself somewhat heightens. But as I mature, as my experience pool deepens - my desires of validation and need for proving myself lessens. I have done this before. They may not have been the hardest treks in the world (know your capabilities amirite), but I have done this before - sometimes in a peak of ability, sometimes in the complete low, almost doubled over by sickness. Now I have overcome big challenges and I have come out smiling, with such a broadened understanding of life and myself. But I didn’t come out with the big trophy of validation I was once seeking. People, and God, will love me despite my accomplishments and despite my pace (shocking, I know). And then God cemented this one for me during our recent trip. He said something like “Nicole, you know that if you allow people to validate you due to your abilities, you give them just as much permission to invalidate you when you’re incapable.” And that counts for my attitude towards others too. Do I want to spend the rest of my life waiting for people to prove themselves? Or do I want to love them as they are, right now, unconditionally, just as Jesus does? Food for thought.
And look, I know what you’re thinking right now… “Man alive Nicole, where oh where did you gain these revelations? On what patch of earth did you align your feet to God’s will!?” The answer you earnestly seek is: the Kumano Kodo trek - a well-known, historical pilgrimage in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan. It was a multi-day hike that looked something like 75 kms, amazing Japanese cultural experiences through accommodation & hospitality. Truly an amazing experience where the whole team experienced personal challenges, God’s creation & His wisdom. But actually, that’s where I stopped writing.
Fast forward almost two months and here I am sitting on the other side of Outreach. When I stopped writing I thought it was because I had lost my train of thought, I left it there and sought to return to it when I got time. I was not aware that that revelation God had given me on this hike & through this blog would be something for me to hold onto to help me through a significant growth period to come.
Over the time it has been since the hike I have come to experience that when we can’t prove ourselves by our actions, or, when our actions don’t align with the highest & best (and quite far from it) - God loves us, still. And when we are surrounded with people who know and love God, they are also able to love us, still. That does not remove depth or weight of our poor actions (read: mistakes), but it really does help us understand the length, breadth, height & depth of God’s love (Ephesians 3:18). This love is the love that cannot be stretched or deepened by actions. Through the gap of writing this blog, I made some decisions that were no longer able to validate my righteousness. I made some mistakes and was made more aware that now I actually had to rely on the bible’s teachings that we are solely (and soul-y, get it?) justified by Christ. Because, as I had previously mused - if I allowed myself to be validated by my actions, I had to allow myself to be invalidated by my actions. As the weight of my mistakes dawned on me, so did the power of repentance and the grace of God that flows from God & through His children. And, honestly, that’s how I begun to learn about unconditional love, and stopped actively pursuing validation through actions.
(I also learnt how beautiful God’s grace is and the greater need to choose to extend it).
We make mistakes, we can’t always do what we know to be right, or even want to do. But if you remove everything from our capability, if we make all the mistakes in the world and have nothing else to offer, God will still love us. We don’t need to rely on our current ability to prove it. It’s unconditional & never ending. It is good.
- Nicole Webb (Pathfinders Staff)
Read more of Nicole's blogs Here.