the dust of the Tetons

March 20, 2010

Rob Bell has this thing – I guess you’d call it a “signature talk” – titled Covered in the Dust of your Rabbi.  In it, he describe the path to being a rabbi, which includes following said Rabbi so closely that you become covered in the dust his sandals kicked up.

What really stuck with me was the experiential nature of the lessons.  Sure, Rabbis talked but for the most part, disciples would glean wisdom and knowledge from just observation and participation.

I realized the other day that I’m covered in the dust of the Tetons.

About two weeks before I shipped off to London to start my MBA, I was visiting my friends parents in Jackson Hole, WY.  We went for a hike on a trail they had been wanting to try.  We knew it was going to be challenging from the library of books and guidemaps they have about the range.  I remember praying that morning – and really that whole week leading up to the weekend – that God would give me an insight, a peace, a word, or anything to hold on to about the forthcoming academic dive into grad school.

While I somehow managed to pull it together and get accepted into a Top 10 MBA program, I’ve NEVER felt smart.  Actually, I can only remember from pre-k onward feeling very very very stupid.  I struggled in school but for a variety of reasons, personality, pride, absent parents…I was able to slide by without anyone ever knowing.

So I was nervous about starting school, at a really good school. Terrified actually.  And off we went for our hike.

To be honest, I think I was expecting to have some grand chat with them.  They’re always the right mix of encouraging and challenging.  But, part of me just didn’t want to bring it up and part of me just didn’t feel like it was the time.

So up the mountain we hiked.

and then we got lost.

for six hours.

Now, at this point, I didn’t have the heart to explain to my Harvard-educated friend’s dad that we were probably lost for a purpose so he probably wasn’t going to find the right way any time soon.  I knew this day was answering some of my most difficult questions.

Don’t we all struggle, and I mean, viscerally, with whether or not we have what it takes?  I’m sure a lot of people with many initials behind their names could explain why this is, but I’m more interested in the reality than the theory.

I stare at huge mountains everyday that I’m desperate to climb – and there is almost always a voice saying “yeah, right, this is you we’re talking about.”  I’ve tried so many things – convincing myself other people or circumstances are the blame as to why I haven’t conquered; I’ve rationalized that maybe I really don’t want to go that high; I’ve taken a few steps and asked who I am kidding for even trying.  But the reality remains, these proverbial mountains are deeply seeded desires that I didn’t make up.  Assignments, callings – name them what you will – but they are there and they are not going away.

And I constantly feel the weight of the distance between me and the summit.

Had you told me that morning the endurance and physical strength it would have taken to hike, I would have told you I didn’t have it.  And I probably didn’t!  Because, as I learned that day, the conversations we have at the bottom of the mountain are important – but even more so are those that we have on the climb.

But that day, after wandering through the woods, my twice repaired leg twitching and being totally lost – I realized I have no idea what I’m capable of – UNTIL I try it. I realized I tell myself the most horrible things the second something gets hard and I might fail.

I was stuck on that mountain.  The only way I was getting off without becoming a moose snack was to keep going – to fight through conversation in my head about the inadequacy of my efforts.  And you know what I found  out?

I’m more than able.  Everything I believe about myself was untrue.

The introduction of that kind of cognitive dissonance has literally reshaped my experience at Duke.  It’s not just a school – its travel – its people – it’s time management…and since that day in Jackson, I have literally watched EVERYTHING in my life be stretched to the absolute  limit.  Mentally, emotionally, financially, professionally, relationally, personally, physically, – name it – and the past 9 months has taken it right to or over the edge.

And I go back to that day.  I sometimes look at the running shoes that are still brown because I wouldn’t let my friend’s mom wash when we got home.  I remember what I know or think about myself may be the most evil attack the devil has ever waged and the only way to learn the truth is to stay close to Jesus, to follow Him into the crazy situations and places He’s leading – and let experiences, not information, instruct me about who I am.

I’m covered in the dust of the Tetons.

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