Years ago as a missionary, I was visiting inactive members with an old, humble man from our small congregation. As is customary in small branches of the church, most members hold multiple callings; Harold was no exception. Among the list of Harold’s church callings was Branch Mission Leader. It was his responsibility to help forward the missionary work among the membership of the congregation, we relied on him as our liaison with the Saints. He was a great chauffeur and rarely stayed awake during our teaching appointments. In summary, he was perfect for the job.
On this particular day we traveled the tree-lined roads in the back country woods. It was picturesque. The sunlight beamed through the autumn afternoon sky. Everything was serine and beautiful. The seasons were changing and the evidence of it was everywhere. Stately maple trees had turned a blazing red color and the squirrels were making their final preparations for the cold winter that seemed just days away. This was life in the Northeast.
After a day of teaching appointments (and a few good naps for Harold) we were headed back to town to reunite with my companion. I loved the time I was able to spend with Harold. He was always full of wit, wisdom and a no-nonsense attitude. As we traveled he continued to glance into his rear view mirror. Over and over he would stare at the oncoming headlights. It was obvious that whoever was driving behind us was either in a hurry or tired of following Harold’s slower-than-normal Ford Taurus. As soon as it was safe, the teenage driver darted past our car and sped away into the distance. Without skipping a beat and keeping his eyes on the road, Harold quietly murmured, “speeding to an early grave, never to enjoy the time he’d save.” And that was that.
All these years later I remember that phrase as if I had invented it myself.
This phrase, to me, was pure wisdom. How often am I speeding so quickly through life that I risk the opportunity of enjoying the time that I have? I think we all share some of that guilt. I am not sure all the reasons why we rush from place to place. Is this life really a race to the finish line or should be an experience of trial, error and education? Have we become so busy that we have forgotten to take time for ourselves? I have.
One hot, July summer I had the opportunity to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The trip was billed as a quick, non strenuous five-mile trip from the north rim of the the Grand Canyon to the cool Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon. I was met with many surprises along the hike. My water ran low, the sun was usually hot, the trail was crowded and when I thought it finally couldn’t get worse: I realized that the advertised five miles was just one way. Unfortunately for me, the return trip wasn’t calculated in the total distance on the flyer. After hours of sulking down the trail (and through this miserable journey) to say I was upset was an understatement. Why did I get sucked into thinking that this trip was a great idea? It was’t that I didn’t like the Grand Canyon or hiking…I was just unprepared for the magnitude of the journey. The day before I enjoyed a 19 mile hike, had I known this was a 10 mile trip I would not have considered it. Like life, sometimes we don’t realize the difficult position we are in until we look out from the bottom of the canyon. I was exhausted, my energy was depleted and I was not mentally prepared.
After many hours of hiking to the bottom of the Canyon, I laid in the cool grass growing along the banks of the Colorado River. Surely there was someone I could blame for my grief. Why didn’t I research this trip more thoroughly? How on earth will I get out of this canyon? To get back to the lodge seemed like an unattainable duty. I found myself with only three options to get home: a mule, a helicopter or my own two feet. I hadn’t seen a single mule anywhere along the trail that day, (I had two one-hundred dollar bills for the first person who offered their donkey to this weary traveler.) I remembered the park ranger telling us that if we incurred an injury we could call to have a medical helicopter lift us out of the Canyon. How easily could I fake an injury?
I was now faced with my final option: climb out the same way I climbed in.
So here I was, sitting in the cool grass along the banks of the river. It was here I found the cross in the road. I lacked the strength, energy and desire to hike back out of the Grand Canyon. I just wanted to get back to the lodge to relax in my bathtub of misery and self pity (but seriously, I did want my tub.) I wanted to be back home and I wanted it right now! It takes a lot of courage to stand at the base of the Grand Canyon and decide to put one foot in front of the next and begin walking forward. In my haste to get to the bottom of the canyon I failed to see the beauties that surrounded me. The Grand Canyon really was an incredible wonder. With no other options I slowly climbed the trail toward the rim of the canyon. Somehow I found strength to continue. I found myself striking conversation with other hikers. I learned that some of these hikers had hiked the Canyon rim to rim–in the same day and they were more than 40 years older than me. Another group of hikers told me that they saved their money for more than ten years to afford the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon. Their decades of sacrifice had made this hike a highlight of their life (how could I impose my negative attitude on them, they were actually enjoying themselves.) I learned a few valuable lessons from the hike: first, read all your travel brochures in detail, second, take a break: enjoy the journey and find joy in the path that you are on. I am confident that I know when I am travelling too quickly.
“None of us will be on earth very long. We have a number of precious years which, in the eternal perspective, barely amount to the blink of an eye.
And then we depart. Our spirits “are taken home to that God who gave [us] life.” We lay our bodies down and leave behind the things of this world as we move to the next realm of our existence.
When we are young, it seems that we will live forever. We think there is a limitless supply of sunrises waiting just beyond the horizon, and the future looks to us like an unbroken road stretching endlessly before us.
However, the older we get, the more we tend to look back and marvel at how short that road really is. We wonder how the years could have passed so quickly. And we begin to think about the choices we made and the things we have done. In the process, we remember many sweet moments that give warmth to our souls and joy to our hearts. But we also remember the regrets—the things we wish we could go back and change.” –Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
I have applied these principles to many aspects of my life. Most particularly in terms of addiction and my personal struggles. Like the Grand Canyon, a pornography addiction (or insert your addiction of choice here) has to be dealt with one step at a time. Just like the Grand Canyon, the way out is exactly like the way in: one step in front of the other. When we began our addictions we taught ourselves how to fit the addiction into our daily schedule, now we have to teach ourselves how to live without that addiction. Isn’t it time to make those changes? While you’re making the changes be sure to enjoy the journey. Spend more time with the people you love. Become a better son of God and continue to find happiness regardless of your circumstances. If not, then you’ll just be speeding to an early grave, never to enjoy the time you’d save.