September 2012

Over the Hills and Around the Curves of Life


On a bike ride with my husband John last weekend, I had trouble with some of the hills and curves and was frankly relieved to find an easier, alternative route at one point of the trail. I turned my bike to follow it, and John waved as he took the more difficult option. Oh he’s just showing off, I told myself, and he’ll later wish he’d joined me on this one instead.

Well, I was wrong — as I saw a few minutes later when he soared down the other side of the hill, laughing and obviously exhilarated.

This was a reminder to me of the rewards of overcoming and meeting difficulties literally head-on. Which of us actually improved that day? Which of us is more competent for yet another challenge? Who is ready for further growth? Who went home feeling more satisfied with the day’s adventures?

Clichés such as “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and “No pain, no gain” come to mind. If we lived without tests, if our lives were completely at ease, we would not experience personal growth and probably even be bored. And in any case, unlike difficult bike trails, real tests cannot be avoided; they are intrinsic to our being human.

Through tests we are strengthened, much like steel being tempered by fire or a muscle being trained for endurance. This has potentially larger impact, as the Baha’i International Community explained in a paper on Rural Poverty wherein it wrote” . . . the growth of the individual must go hand in hand with the transformation of society. When individuals develop moral capacities and spiritual qualities, the skills and knowledge they acquire are likely to promote the well-being of the community as a whole”.

Drawing again on the metaphor about steel and muscles, we know that eventually the fire has done its job and the steel needs to cool — and that the muscle has to rest and heal after exertion. Life is this way, too. We have difficult times which eventually pass, allowing us to appreciate the lessons they gave us and to remember them when we need them.

On a personal level, this tells me that by engaging in action and not being afraid of taking some risks I will improve myself and become better equipped to help others. I may be only a tiny part of our community life, but we all have a role to play, and the stronger each of us is then the better for all.

One of the signs of spiritual maturity is to welcome tests as a means to prepare for future, inevitable challenges. In a similar fashion, this is what happens if I seek and even enjoy the hills and curves on a trail. I gain skill and become more confident and joyous in other endeavours. I think next time I’ll join John. I might fall down, or I might make the curves. In either case, I’ll be the better for it — and might have some fun, too.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2012