*This post is dedicated to Jeff Eiden, who, one day on the side of a sand dune, was a shining example to me of God’s heroic love.
My sister, Leah, and brother-in-law, Jeff, have a cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan not far from Lake Superior. A few years ago, we spent Thanksgiving there together. One morning, we loaded up in their minivan and made our way to an area of the lake called Log Slide Overlook. This is the place at the top of the sand dunes where loggers moved logs from the top of the dunes down to the lake for transportation. The view from the overlook is breathtaking. I remember standing there with Jeff and my nephews, looking down and being awestruck by the beauty of the lake. All of a sudden, I realized that Jeff was gone. I looked all around, and I couldn’t see him anywhere. After looking all around for a few minutes, I started to get worried. Then, almost as quickly as he had disappeared, there he was again. When I asked him where he had gone, he said that he had gone all the way down the dune to the lake. He said, “You should try it – it’s beautiful down there.” Well, I am always up for an adventure, so I started getting excited. After I had taken one or two steps down, Jeff said, “Be careful. It’s not that easy to climb back up.” So, thinking that I should just see what I was getting into, I took the couple of steps back up. No big deal. I had this.
Off I went. Going down the dune was SO much fun! I would put my foot down, and it would slide. Put the other foot down, slide some more. I gained more joy with each slide of my foot. Slide, slide, slide. Super fun! When I got to the bottom, WOW. I was at the edge of the lake and surrounded by the sand dunes. The view from down there was even more incredible than the view from the top. I was filled with joy and captivated by the wonder of it all.
I wish I could tell you that the story ends there with all the joy and wonder, but that wouldn’t be the truth. All that joy and wonder soon began to fade as I started to attempt to make my way back up the dune. Attempt. Yes, you read that correctly. I will say that I started out with strength and determination. I put my foot in the sand, and guess what? It slid down. Just like before. Only this time, I didn’t want my foot to slide down. I put the other foot up in the sand. It slid down too. Foot up, slide down. Other foot up, slide down again. And this was the way it went. I was working so hard and making very little progress. Very. Little. Progress. I was determined though. My family was waiting for me up there. Step up, slide down. Step up, slide down.
At this point, I might mention that according to the caution sign at the top of the overlook, the dune is a 500 foot climb with a 300 foot gain in elevation. Did you catch that? There was a caution sign. Oh my. The things I get myself into.
There I was, climbing and climbing. Exhaustion began to take over. All joy – gone. All wonder – lost. Enter feelings of exasperation and anxiety. I was overwhelmed. So, I stopped. I stopped. I sat down. I was about halfway up, and I quit. I got out my cell phone, called my sister, and said, “I can’t make it back up.” To make matters even more interesting, she asked a couple of questions and quickly determined that I was hypoglycemic. Hypoglycemia is caused by a low level of glucose, which is your body’s main energy source (at least that’s what it says on the Mayo Clinic website). I had only eaten an apple for breakfast several hours earlier, and I didn’t have enough fuel to get me back up that dune.
I hope you can picture this scene. My family at the top of the overlook. Dana sitting in the middle of the sand dune with probably 250 more feet to climb. Out of energy. Shaky. Weak. Overwhelmed.
As it turns out, we have a hero in my family. At least, he sure was a hero to me that day. Down came Jeff armed with a bottle of water and a Clif bar (how appropriate, right?). There are tears in my eyes as I’m typing this. That brother-in-law of mine knew what I needed and moved beyond the knowledge of my need to action. He stayed with me while I put into my body what was needed to provide energy. He encouraged me. He believed in me when I had already quit. Guess what? It worked.
I finished the bottle of water and the Clif bar. I got up. And I stepped and slid the rest of the way back up that dune with my faithful rescuer by my side. He didn’t rush on up the dune ahead of me. He stayed with me, providing the encouragement that I needed. And I made it. What a joyful reunion it was at the top of the overlook!
So, you might say, why am I telling you all of this? I have been reminded of this experience on a couple of different occasions this week. I found myself in a situation at work that seemed very much like this sand dune. Trying, trying, trying to make progress, but for every step upward, there was a slide downward. It seemed like the harder I worked, the bigger the mess became. It was a sand dune moment.
I have struggled with my weight for pretty much my whole life. About 10 years ago, by God’s grace, I lost 60 pounds. For the most part, I had managed until a few years ago to keep most of that off. But today, I find myself in the struggle. One step upward, one slide downward. A sand dune moment.
So, here I am in the middle of the sand dune faced with a long climb ahead. How about you? Have you had any sand dune moments lately? Are you climbing, but not really getting anywhere?
This morning, my question to God was, “What are You trying to teach me in these sand dune moments?” I’m not sure I know all the lessons I’m supposed to be learning, but I will share some encouragement (just in case I’m not alone on the dune).
Call for help. Sounds simple, right? Why is it that we struggle so long without calling for help? Sometimes, maybe the best thing we can do is stop and call for help. Our Father knows what we need and moves beyond the knowledge of our needs to action.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT)
“The LORD says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in My name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them.'” (Psalm 91:14-15, NLT)
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16, NLT)
Increase your spiritual energy. In sand dune moments, it could be that we are lacking in the main sources of our spiritual energy – the Bread of Life and Living Water. Time at the feet of Jesus will give us the strength that we lack on our own. We can’t make it up the dune without Him.
“Jesus replied, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'” (John 6:35, NLT)
“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.'” (John 4:13-14, NLT)
Get up and keep climbing. Persevere. Once we have called for help and refueled, we have to just keep climbing. Jesus is near to us. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, and He will make the climb with us, offering hope and encouragement through His Word.
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9, NLT)
If you see someone stuck on a sand dune, help them. Maybe you don’t relate to this today. You’re not having a sand dune moment. Do you know someone who is? Reach out to them. Point them to the Bread of Life and the Living Water. Encourage them. Cheer them on. Believe me, it will matter so much.
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT)
Dear Father, You see us. You know when we struggle – when we are trying hard, but not making much progress. You see the steps upward and the slides downward. So many times, we struggle and struggle without even asking You for Your help. Forgive us for that. Will You please come to us on these sand dunes and help us? We are so aware of our need for You. Give us the Bread of Life and the Living Water. Fuel our spirits. We bring our exasperation, our anxiety, our striving, and we lay all of it at the feet of Jesus. Please exchange it for peace, joy, and hope. Give us the spiritual energy we need to get up and keep on climbing. We know that with Your help we can make it up this sand dune. Help us, Father, to look around us and to encourage others who may be experiencing sand dune moments. Thank You so much for Your love for us, Your help, and Your provision. Amen.