Snakes. I hate snakes. If there is one thing that I never want to see again or that I could condemn straight to you know where, I would say snakes. (If any of you use this information to your advantage, I promise there will be hell to pay. Seriously.)
Decisions. They're hard. The decisions we make navigate our journey through life. I am not particularly fond of decisions all the time. Sometimes they are the hardest things to deal with. With each decision comes a consequence- good or bad. At times, we make the right one. Other times, we have an error of judgment and a mistake is made. I believe that our mistakes govern our lives as much, if not more, than the easy/'right' decisions. Life is the decision; living is the consequence. We make the decision. We choose the consequence.
"We choose our joys and our sorrows long before we experience them."
I have been thinking a lot about a certain experience that I had on my mission that has really stuck with me. To some, this event probably won't seem like much, but to me, this has really changed my outlook. About a year and a half into my mission, I was serving in the beautiful city of Santa Maria. My companion and I, along with the two elders we lived with, had been wanting to go hiking for a long time. We asked around and our branch president recommended this amazing hike to us. He and his wife talked it up quite a bit and we were so excited. After they talked about how wonderful it was, they gave us a warning. It was like an arrow to the heart for me. Their words were, "Elders, be careful. A lot of people have told us that they have run into rattlesnakes on the trail." Great... well, it was a good idea anyway! Me, being the only one afraid of snakes, suggested that we find a different trail, but that did not go over well. The next p-day we were hiking one of the most beautiful trails I had ever seen! Just look at the pictures. It was incredible and everything that we had heard it was.
We decided that we would go all the way to the end of the trail rather than stopping half-way. As we walked, we became careless. I was walking with one of the other elders and talking when suddenly he threw his arm across my chest and pushed me back as hard as he could. That's when I heard it. The sound I had avoided all my life. This is a little over dramatic but to me, it was the rattle of death. I had come withing of foot of stepping on THIS!
(Please note that even putting this on here makes me want to hurl... It's just to make a point.)
Before you could utter a nasty four-letter word, I was a quarter mile back in the direction that we had come from. The other three elders provoked that blasted thing a bit while I was sitting down with my head between my knees. Ultimately the decision was made that we would continue past that .... thing... and finish our hike. I, however, don't remember the next 5 minutes. But this is how they got me past the rattler.
Judge me all you want. I'm a wuss. Whatever. You can see from this picture that the trail was pretty wide. Well, it became narrower and narrower until we were all walking in a single-file line through the brush. We were all just a bit on edge. No, they didn't carry me the whole way. We had made the decision to carry on and we were going to stick with it. About an hour after our first encounter with the devil, we were approaching the last section of the trail. My stomach fell to the ground when I recognized the devil's mating call once again. Right there, lying across the center of the trail, was yet another diamondback. These things were really starting to ruin my day. I knew what that second snake was, it was a warning. It was the line. We had reached the line right across the path and we were not to go any further. To me, this was clear. I had the very distinct feeling come into me that begged, "Do NOT take another step!" You don't have to tell me twice. One of the elders turned to me and said, "I know what you're feeling because I feel it too. We are going back." Awww thank you! Someone finally understood! My companion was about to be swayed either way, while the other elder was determined to finish the hike. The elder that was ready to finish this thing threw rocks at the snake until it was rattling from the brush and walked past it. As he crossed that line, I told him my responsibilities as a leader ended right there. To walk one more step was his own agency. Twenty steps later, that missionary froze in his tracks. I was worried that there was another snake right there so when I screamed out, "What's wrong?!" He replied, "I cannot take another step. Even if I wanted to. I can't move my feet." After pausing for about a minute, he turned around and led us out of that place. There was not another snake in his path. There was only a distinct warning that we should not go any further. We cautiously began the hike back over the mountain and only ran into one more of those disgusting creatures. This time, we were ready for it and we passed by without it even coiling up.
We were blessed that day. We don't know what was avoided or why we turned around but we did all return unharmed. (Mentally, maybe I was a little overwhelmed...) The point is that we had a choice. We chose to continue our hike even though we knew what risks we were taking.
I have made a lot of decisions in my life. We all have. I had made my share of good decisions and bad ones, but I am grateful for the ones I learned from. Right now, I am in a time of life that seems like each day brings another choice that I don't want to worry about. I have often heard it that that "If you decide not to decide, you have already decided." At times, I think I have it all figured out. I am sure that I've made the right/good/correct decision and that everything will work out perfectly. These last few weeks have really taught me a lot about myself and how I can better myself in this process.
When I think back to certain experiences in my life, I feel like I have been very guided in the decisions I have made. Sometimes, I get frustrated because I'm sure I've made the "good decision" and I'm going to the path that I'm supposed to be on. Then comes that feeling, "Don't take another step!" It's almost as if a brick wall is slammed down in front of me and I have to turn back and go the other direction. (Believe me, I'd rather it be a brick wall than an evil creature without legs...) So, I turn around. I hike back up the other side of the mountain to another beginning point. I wish I knew why I made the decision I did. I wish I could always be sure of where I'm going but that's not always part of the plan. That's not always how we learn.
We are promised that we will receive blessings according to our faith and obedience, so I guess it's time to just take that leap. A friend of mine sent me a text with this scripture today, "I will be your light in the wilderness: and I will prepare the way before you... Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall be led toward the promised land and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led." (1 Ne. 17:13)
So, was it worth the view and the experience? Totally.