A week ago 16 year-old Hunter Gandee and his younger brother, Braden, walked across an epic finish line at Michigan’s Capitol in the city of Lansing. Together, the two had journeyed 111 miles to raise awareness for cerebral palsy, a condition 9 year-old Braden was diagnosed with at the age of 1.
What is really unique about their 6-day journey is that Hunter carried Braden (approximately 70 lbs.), who has difficulty walking, on his back from their hometown for 110 1/2 miles. The last half-mile Braden courageously finished on his own. Along the way, they enjoyed the company of family, friends, and others they inspired.
Months before embarking, a team of medical and fitness professionals worked with the brothers to ensure their readiness. This is not the first time the two have trained to take on a distance challenge. Their first walk to raise awareness was two years ago and covered 40 miles. And, last year’s walk was 57 miles.
Around town, when Braden is not using his walker, Hunter also routinely carries him on his back. In a Today Show interview for the 111-mile walk Hunter said, “I sometimes think we’re extra close because as his older brother, I want to be there for him when he needs me, and he needs me a little extra, so I’m happy to do it.”
Hunter’s remarks have held my thoughts captive. When someone helps us through something difficult, we often develop a strong bond that would not have otherwise existed. But, what if we never seek or accept help? Is a relationship then less enriched because of that? What if the relationship is the one we have with God?
This past week I spent some time analyzing my relationship with God through a life mapping activity at our church. A life map is a timeline which lists important people, circumstances, and events that have shaped your life. Turning points and painful moments are highlighted within chapters of your life. The results bring insight into your life lessons, gifts, and relationship with God.
Reviewing my life map, while having the Gandee brothers’ story fresh in my mind, helped me realize I have spent most of my life resisting a ride on God’s back.
I did not look to the Bible for wisdom, pray for answers, ask his trusted advisors for help, or even stop to consider what I could learn from my problems. During painful events or turning points, my knee jerk reaction was to fix, control, and worry through things on my own. Have you ever thought this way? Why is looking to God for help seemingly a last resort for so many of us? A few reasons I have come up with:
- Time – When problems arise, time seems to become more scarce. We often expend all our energy searching for answers and stressing out. Understanding what God and the Bible can offer seems like an overwhelming task. We tell ourselves when life gets easier there will be more time to figure out what we believe.
- Doubt – Most of us have doubts regarding faith, and stress only increases them. We wonder why God lets bad things happen. We wonder how believing in something intangible can help us. We don’t see faith offering fast, concrete, or measurable results for our problems.
- Place – For many, God fits nicely into a box labeled church. The contents of this box are explored only on Sundays. Encounters with God are expected to occur at the end of the road, not in the middle of our current mess.
So, I wonder if we do not seek God’s help for various reasons, is he absent from our life until we do?
A closer look at my life map reveals even when I did not ask God for a ride he still walked beside me offering encouragement and helping me learn valuable lessons. In each painful moment and at each turning point, there appears to be strategically placed friends and events. My timeline clearly shows I was never alone.
And, I can pinpoint the exact location on my map when my walking legs gave out. The point when having God as a walking partner would no longer suffice. I sank to the ground, in desperate need of a ride. Then, I started prioritizing time, allowing room for doubt, and expanding his place. Like brothers on a 111-mile journey, he picked me up and we became “extra close” because of it.
I can’t help wondering, how does God feel when we don’t let him carry us through life’s difficulties? When his back is strangely empty? How would things change if we reached beyond our own means for hope?
Riding on God’s back has given me a new perspective on solving problems. I have a strong grip on his shoulders, and I can see farther ahead. People may think it’s strange. People may think, “that’s crazy God talk, and she should come down and do things on her own.” I understand because I’ve said those things before. Now, I’m taking the ride. I think it is where I belong.
Scripture for the Week
About Benjamin he said: “Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” Deuteronomy 33:12 New International Version (NIV)
Prayer for the Week
Thank you for your constant presence throughout my life, even when I am unaware or doubt you are there. When I am in trouble, you send people, resources, and events which help realign my course with your plans for me. Your Holy Spirit quiets my discontent and teaches me to listen for lessons. When life becomes overwhelming and I feel broken, you graciously offer a lift and carry me. You never tire or insist I make it on my own. Instead, your Word keeps me close and full of hope. For this I offer my endless praise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
Watch the story about Hunter and Braden on the Today Show right here
More about their story on NBC 24 here