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The Rut and the Big Hill

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  • The Rut and the Big Hill

    Living my childhood in the mountains of West Virginia; A childhood story I remember:
    One day in my childhood, I must have been around the age of 13 years old. The winters there were terrible. I lived there in a small community outside of a little coal mining town. The road to the community was basically a road that followed along beside a creek, all the way up in a "holler". Some who have never spent much time in the mountains may ask; what's a "holler"? To keep this simple, a "holler" is just a road or a path cut out between two mountains and generally extends upward in a valley toward the mountain top. Some hollers just keep following a river or creek for miles and miles between two mountains. The community I lived in was a very impoverished neighborhood. The term “dirt poor” applies, as many homes had cracks so large you could easily see the dirt. The road was also dirt and was very narrow. There was only room for one car at a time to pass. If two cars met, then one was backing up to a wide spot until the other could pass. The conditions of the road were not good. The farther the road went up in the holler, the worst it became.

    I specifically remember one particular winter day when I awoke to a heavy snow fall. During these days as a kid, all the kids were outside playing in the snow and I was no exception. One day in particular, I was on my way to my cousin’s house, which happened to live in the last house in the holler. Of course I was walking to get there. As I walked, my cousin's father (which my uncle) drove up beside me on his way home from work in the coal mines. He asked if I wanted a ride. Yeah of course!

    Well, on our way to his house is a big hill which we had to climb to get there. It was very steep and it was long. We all knew it in the community as "the big hill". As we came to the foot of the big hill, there were several 4 wheel drive trucks lined up along the side of the road, parked at the bottom of the big hill. I also knew my uncle very well and as a young teenager, I knew he had no intentions of walking. Well, he lived yet another 2 miles on up in the holler.

    He asked me if I was OK and if I felt brave. Given the choice of walking or riding, I felt brave that day. Well then, we proceeded and went up the hill. All the way up to the top. Along the way, I was able to look over the side of the big hill. All I saw was cliff-side, as I sat there shaking in my boots. Keep in mind, the road was narrow and it slightly sloped toward the cliff side. The big hill was in terrible shape. It had a set of deep ruts or tire tracks in the mud, ice and snow; from the bottom all the way to the top. I noticed, while climbing the big hill, that he made every attempt to stay out of the rut. We made it up the hill and after we had calmed down, I asked him why no one else could make it up the big hill. He told me the secret, as he laughed with his chest out. He said; "because they ride in the rut. If you stay in the rut, then you lose all your momentum. And because of the friction of the rut, squeezing in on the tires, it causes the trucks to stall out mid way up the big hill. They have to back down the hill in reverse, all the way down to the bottom. Some try and try again. But as you can see, all these gave up. Bottom line, to get up this hill on a day like today, you have to stay out of the rut.

    My uncle was also a Christian minister, and he preached to me that day a sermon that I will never forget. Sadly, he didn't even know he was preaching a sermon. But I have remembered this story all of my life. I am 51 years old now and have come to relate this story to various of times of my Christian walk of life. I refer to it as "the rut and the big hill". How many times in my Christian life have I been stagnant and not moving forward in my Christian walk? Now I am not pushing a works based Christian life, but I do know as a Christian, we are expected to grow.

    Well, perhaps at times in my own life, I was not ready to take on the big hill? Sometimes I made the choice to stay parked at the bottom of the big hill. Sometimes I believed I could make it up the hill by staying in the rut. But for me, the rut has generally been the false sense of security of other Christians around me who sheltered me or allowed me to keep my seat at the rear of the church (so to speak). That is, standing behind other stronger Christians in my spiritual circle of people has always easier for me. Easier for me to wait until being spoken to, before giving input or guidance to someone seeking. I would wait to be asked by the church group to visit the sick, before agreeing to go on my own. I would wait for someone else to say a prayer over a meal, and would even say no if asked to offer a blessing. I would rely on our church service or bible study to be my sole source of scripture study. And in general, I would rather take a regressive role instead of a more dominate role.

    Sadly, there have been so many of these times that I have been in this situation. It’s easy now for me to look back at where I was and how I grew as a Christian. But until I was there, and had come to realize where I was in my Christian walk, was when the Lord convicted my heart to change. The Lord brought to my mind the story that my uncle shared with me. I am playing it safe. And I made all kinds of excuses in my mind why I was not growing. Maybe the storm was not that bad. It's ok if I park here at the bottom. But other storms came; ones that I did not want to find myself walking and making it afoot. And then other storms came in my life leaving me with the realization that I should not stay parked here at the bottom of the hill. I knew it was time to do a little more than I have been doing, which at times was not very much. In fact, my light was not shining very bright at all. I made tough choices; either to stay in the truck at the bottom of the hill or do what I know that needs to be done in order to propel to the next level. I knew I had to make a choice. But along my way, I did see myself clinging to the rut, yet never making it to the top. Then I had to start over again.

    I will be the first to admit, it was very hard for me during these storms to have the boldness and confidence to stay out of the rut. It was hard for me to make a trip to visit a sick neighbor to see if they needed anything. Or to go to my elderly neighbor’s house to shovel the snow from her sidewalk. Or to offer to say a blessing at dinner over the food. Or to share this story on a chat forum. But as the Lord blessed me with more and more opportunity to do little things like these, and I was able to do them, rather than just waiting on someone else to do them instead. It was in these storms that I realized my relationship with God is growing. I could even see that God probably put some of the storms in my life because I needed to move to another higher level. These are the ruts in the big hill of my life.

    The question I will leave here is; what are the ruts in your big hill preventing you from climbing to the next level?