I ran down the hill and got in front of them and started to "break" the trail. I took small but forceful steps with my huge size 12 boots and started to give them a place to stand, a stable place to move around. The snow was deeper than I perceived and the hill was bigger than I had remembered and the work was exhausting. Slowly, methodically, intentionally, I plugged away up the hill, creating a small but maneuverable place for the kids to walk, ensuring that our sledding experience would not be in vain, that they would be able to continue to move up and down the hill without great distress, and at last we made it up. I was spent. My heart was pounding, my chest was burning, my legs felt like jell-o, and I just collapsed into the snow. After some recovery time, we all jumped back on the sled and raced down the hill again, faster and farther than before and started up the hill again. Each time we did, I took the lead, I stamped down the snow, I broke the trail, I gave them a place to walk. Just follow Daddy, we'll get there - I promise. What an amazing day.
As I was thinking about the day (sitting on a heating pad, with my feet propped up), I saw a lot of life parallels from my sledding experience with my kids. So often, as a husband, as a father, as a pastor, I have tasted and seen something that I want others to see. I have been given a glimpse of what is "not yet" and am tasked with the job of guiding others to it. It is the blessing and burden of leading - you get to see it first, but then you must help share it, whatever the cost. My desire for my kids to experience the joy of sledding (like I used to) drove me to waste myself breaking the trail, to sacrifice comfort and energy and ease in order to see it come to fruition. Successful parenting is selfless work. Successful marriages are selfless marriages. Successful pastoring is selfless pastoring. All of them require the grit and determination to press toward the mark, even when it has not yet been realized, even when it costs us, even when it is uncomfortable, and even when (as my 5-year old wanted to) those behind us ask to turn back. These callings (that we all share) are not for the faint of heart or those short on endurance. The only way they (whoever "they" are that you lead) will ever see and experience what we have seen and experienced, is if we're willing to pay the price to guide them to it. Dads, moms, leaders - break the trail, lead well, give those behind a firm place to stand.