“There’s a lot to be said for being free. Free birds are free to fly, and free souls are free to soar.” – Author unknown
My family and I are currently on our annual trip to sunny Baja, Mexico. One thing to be aware of about visiting Mexico in late June is the heat. It can make an Oregon native gal like me feel totally out of sorts, suffocated, and bound up. It looms heavy and thick, like a wool blanket doubled over on the skin and lungs.
I absolutely love the early morning hours and late evening here though. They are each day’s lovely and comfortable bookends from the relentless sun. In the morning, I deeply enjoy hearing the birdsongs and how their flinty chatter flits and lilts up into the brief and crisp coolness of the day. Then, at night, the stars show off in a display all their own – like ladies dressed to the nines and going to the theatre, they all put on their best sparkling dress. And being where we are, a small village away from the busy city, you can really see and appreciate their brilliant beauty even more.
Before we left on the trip, my husband tells me he would love for us to go on a family ATV adventure on this vacation. This is where you rent all-terrain vehicles and speed through the desert over rocks and into arroyos where monsoons have washed away sand and carved out and exposed amazing formations of stone. We look together at the options on the website and see that they have 2-hour, 4-hour, and all-day options available.
In my head I am thinking of the heat, the dust, and the way we could all die from heat exhaustion, hoping my husband will say “The two-hour one sounds perfect.” But instead exclaims; “Oh, the four-hour one for SURE!”. I do an inside-brain eyeroll and say, “Okay, let’s book it.”
We arrived at 9 am to go on our big adventure. The man running the place had another family he needed to tend to and teach all about driving the ATV before helping us. By 10 am I was nervously watching the weathervane in my head – “the longer we stay here, the hotter it gets out there…”
About 10:30 we were ready to leave. The helmets you wear are like race-car driver helmets, heavy-duty, tight and gripping. You also need eye-goggles - the kind you would wear skiing or snowboarding. So, there we were, Mike, me, and the two kids caged in. Our bodies, heads, everything. I said a quick prayer “Lord, keep us safe and keep us nice to each other”. I knew we were in for a wild ride, and not just due to the style of buggy and the terrain we were driving.
About an hour into the four-hour excursion the kids begin their questions, “Why are we doing this?” “How much did you pay for this?” and the hardest one to answer: “WHEN is this going to be over?”
I chirped out my replies, trying to lessen the stress of the moment and my own anxiety about the activity we had gotten ourselves into: “Well, we are doing this because we want to try new things, and we paid the going rate, and we still have awhile to go, so try and find positive things to enjoy in the journey.” I realized; I wasn’t only talking to the kids. I also needed reminders and convincing to enjoy something way out of my comfort zone and out of my typical box.
About halfway through our jolting jaunt in the high-noon desert sun, I felt like a wild, caged bird. I was having a hard time breathing in my black helmet and goggles and knowing that we still had two full hours left, I struggled to keep focused on the good, struggled with my mental thoughts that wanted to scream; “Please, I beg you, get me out of here!”
I find the very best way to escape these moments is to go right to the source in prayer to the Prince of Peace, so I asked the Lord to please keep me calm, please divide the time so it felt shorter and to please keep me patient.
I then look up above my head and see a huge bird – a desert hawk flying with her grand wings outstretched, peaceful as can be and without a care in the world. I must admit, at first, I was very jealous of that bird. It had what I wanted so badly: Freedom. It had choices. I was stuck.
Just as these thoughts began to cling and multiply the other negative thoughts I was having; God reminds me He is truly with me in all things and will get me through. And, like I had advised my own children just an hour earlier, He asked me to find the good in this moment and focus on the beauty instead of the temptation to focus on the binding.
In what feels like a rare moment of sarcasm, God sends this verse to my spirit:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV).
Ha ha God, I see what you did there.
So, there it is. like a black and white banner in my mind: Focus on the good, focus on Him. Endure in grace. While I cannot say the time “flew by” after that, I can say that my stress level dropped. My urge to grumble dissipated. Once again, He proves faithful (and funny!)
Thank You Lord for another chance to lean into You and hear a different song.
I hear the birds singing this morning, the day after our grueling adventure, and am full of gratitude for these feathered, free creatures reminding me a new day has begun and I lift up thanks to the One who gave them voice and frees us all.
Question: What are you tempted to grumble about? What is your go-to Bible verse when this happens to help get you through?