Journal entry 042811: Not the easy way

It seems I am often telling my 8-year-old nephew that he can’t always take the easy way out, can’t always make the easy choice. I am usually saying that when he wonders why I parked my pickup so far from the front door of Lowe’s when there were several obviously available parking spaces much closer. Back in the old days when my own kids asked why we parked so far out I’d answer, “Because we are the long distance family,” and they would roll their eyes and be sorry they asked.

I tried that one on Kevin a few times but he reminded me that I was his uncle and not his dad, so he wasn’t technically part of the same long-distance Simpson clan. So I switched to my “don’t always do the easy thing” pitch. He hasn’t bought into that one, yet, either.

“Why not do it the easy way?”

“Because if you always do things the easy way, if you always look for the easiest way out, you’ll end up a very lazy grown-up, and lazy people can’t change the world.”

Kevin isn’t yet rolling his eyes at me like Katie did, but girls come to the eye-rolling move much younger than boys. However, I’m sure he thinks I’m wacky and out-of-touch and too old to be trusted, the same way I thought about my own dad, and he thought about his dad, and so on, all the way back to Cain and Able doubting the things Adam said. It’s the generic response from kids when their grown-ups turn small decisions into grand character-building opportunities.

At this point, Kevin doesn’t care about changing the world. But he does hope to avoid all inconveniences and detours, the sooner to get back home and return to his MacGyver DVDs.

And I’ll admit, I often wonder the value of doing the hard things. I remember a couple of years ago, after I came home from one of my solo backpacking trips into the Guadalupe Mountains, I was exhausted from hauling my heavy backpack full of water up 3,000’ feet to the campsites and my knees were sore and I wondered if there wasn’t a place I could go with available water that didn’t require such a huge climb as the first thing.

After a few days of recovery I realized that there was still some value in what I was doing, God was still speaking to me through the effort and I shouldn’t be so quick to find an easier solution. Maybe there will come a day when an easier trail is the right answer.

I recently heard James Johnson read his (This I Believe) essay about what he learned while duck hunting with his dad: “I learned that discomfort is transient. I learned that I was a welcome burden to my dad, that life without burden is a life without weight, a shallow life. I believe we need the encumbrance of challenge.”

I once wrote about this sort of thing myself while sitting at the junction of Tejas and Juniper Trails, leaning against a fallen log. I was mulling over the burden that comes with love and family. There is no love without struggle; love is a package deal. I knew a man who tried to be a husband and father without taking any of the daily burdens - he didn’t understand love. He claimed to be making things easier on everyone else, yet he missed his opportunity to change his part of the world.

But now, in the name of full disclosure, I cannot write about taking the easy way out without confessing my lame attempt at biking on Tuesday. I left the house all psyched to fight the wind like a man of bold character, knowing I could bask in my superiority later that evening in front of my woman at Taco Tuesday. But when I turned my bike west on Bluebird Lane, into the wind, and my speed dropped to 7 mph, and I knew there was nothing but 3-1/2 miles of humiliating headwind before even the slightest break, well, I broke my resolve. I turned my bike around and rode - well, flew - back home, enjoying the benefits of a strong tailwind while doubting if I was really a manly man. Afterward I went to Gold’s Gym to ride the stationary exercise bicycle for half an hour to recover some portion of my pride.

It isn’t about always doing things the hard way; it is about not always avoiding the hard things simply because they are hard. Sometimes when Kevin is not with me I park as close as possible to the front door of Lowe’s. No need to be stubborn about it. We don’t have to seek out burdens; life brings enough on its own. Just don’t be too quick to avoid them. A life without burden is a life without weight, a shallow life.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


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