How to Reach Your Goals When They are Lost in the Fog.

This summer we took our kids on a month-long road trip to see ten national parks. Most of the parks were impressive from the moment we drove into them. But our first day at Mt. Rainier was a huge disappointment. It was cold and foggy – so cold we didn’t want to get out of the car, and so foggy that we felt like we were carefully pushing the clouds to either side as we drove up and up through the forest. We looked all around us, out every window, but it was impossible to see where the mountain went up. We couldn’t tell if we were facing the summit or driving away from it, lost in the forest, or in clear view of what must sometimes be a beautiful vision. The kids begged to stop driving around and just go back to our campsite… obviously, there was nothing to see here.

It reminds me of my own foggy-headed confusion about my current “life goals” as a full-time mother [i.e. teacher/cook/cleaning lady/jungle gym/receptionist/operator/mediator], volunteer youth leader and after-school club leader, part-time writer, and occasional everything else.

When I was 16, I knew exactly where I was going in life. I could see the mountaintop – and it felt so close. I knew exactly which paths I would take and where they would lead. It felt like I could just pop up to the summit in a day or two. But soon real life hit me, with tests, work, taxes, relationships, and the day-to-day mundane… and then kids brought along their diapers and anti-sleep habits and “Mommy-mommy-ing” and soon the mountain completely disappeared in the fog. I couldn’t accomplish anything big or meaningful in my life – at least with any great speed – but I also couldn’t slow down long enough to see if I was still on the “right” path, let alone work out or grab coffee with a friend. Summit? What summit?

Sometimes it has felt like God is leading me to an entirely different summit than the one I was aiming for when I began – or maybe He’s not taking me to the summit at all, maybe He’s just taking me to see a mossy pond that’s not even on the map. 

I don’t know exactly where I’m going or how I’ll get there anymore. I’ve taken quite a few detours from my original plan, and life doesn’t look exactly like I planned it to look.

But in the midst of that disillusionment, I’ve come to believe that every one of my small, obedient choices are the slow, methodical thud of my hiking boots up the path. Perhaps the trail twists through vegetation that I didn’t expect. Maybe I even feel like I’ve lost the path for a while. But if I keep moving in what seems like the right direction… keep changing the diaper, making the meal, correcting the mean attitude, singing the song, serving the neighbor, showing kindness to the most annoying person in my life, going to the class, volunteering where the need is, reading the book, telling the story, asking the questions… Every “yes” is a step towards something that once looked close, and now looks impossibly far, or has disappeared altogether.

“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.”

Isaiah 58:10-12

Do you know what happened on our second day at Mt. Rainier? The fog was gone. We drove up the same road and revisited the same places we had blindly driven through on the day before, but this time…. We could see the summit. And the views were stunning.

So maybe I don’t need to know the end goal to know what I need to do to be obedient today and this week and with these people who are right in front of me. The road will lead to the same place whether I can clearly see where it’s leading or not.

“E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

– Anne Lamott

So keep at it, friend. Keep obediently following God day after foggy day. One day you may look back on the foggiest days of your life and realize that you were in exactly the right place, and that God used your faithfulness in stunningly beautiful ways. His plan, though hidden, was accomplished.

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