So the next morning we set out on the trail labeled “moderate—four hours travel time.” Either “moderate” has changed meaning or the past two years have taken more out of me than I thought. Most of this trail ran either straight up or straight down, with stone “steps” matching the natural rise or drop of a six foot or more man, not a five-four or less woman. Rocks and tree roots paved the way, except for a few places lined with slick wet leaves just begging for a big piece of cardboard so you could sled down them. But for women my age, anything even resembling a fall is to be avoided at all costs no matter how much fun it might look like.
Three and a half hours later we emerged from the woods, puffing and panting. Every muscle below waist level ached. I hit the camp chair with an Aleve and a cold soda. If this was their idea of moderate, I did not think I was quite up to the one labeled “strenuous, more than a full day’s hike.”
So why do I put myself through this? I could give you a lot of answers. After a hike like that, pure water tastes like nectar. Food is delicious, even the simple fare cooked over a campfire. Crawling into a warm sleeping bag is heaven and you sleep like the proverbial log. When you stay busy and wear yourself out with it, you enjoy even the simplest pleasures far more, and griping about your lot in life is no longer even in your vocabulary, at least for a day. I am sure you can make that application for yourself.
But also, I made up my mind several years ago that as long as I could, I would, because the longer you do, the longer you can. I am trying now to apply that to everything, not just hiking. It is one thing to grow old gracefully. It is another to lie down and die at a time of my choosing instead of God’s, when there is plenty more for me to do, even if I must be a little creative and extra-observant to see it. Growing old gracefully may mean that when you come steaming along behind me, I give you room to pass, but don’t expect me to completely step off the trail out of your way!
I find it unfortunate that the translators chose the word “talent” as in “The Parables of…” in Matthew 25. It creates a mindset that has us deciding whether or not we are capable of doing things. Those pieces of money do not represent “talents” as in abilities. Jesus himself said the talents (money) were distributed “according as each had ability,” so they cannot be the same thing. Those pieces of money represent opportunities. God gives us opportunities according to our abilities. He will not give us opportunities we do not have the ability to handle. We have no right to say, “I don’t have the talent (ability) to take this opportunity.” God knows we do or He would not have sent it.
The same is true as we age or become disabled, and grow physically weaker. God may give us fewer opportunities, opportunities that are not as showy or public—like picking up the phone to call a shut-in, giving a word of encouragement, or simply being a consistent example of faith and endurance. But whatever the opportunity, He expects us to take advantage of it. God expects us all to live by this motto: As long as I can, I do.
And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or serving, let us give ourselves to our service; or he who teaches to his teaching; or he who encourages to his encouraging, or he who gives let him do it with liberality; he who rules with diligence, he who shows mercy with cheerfulness, Rom 12: 6-8.