We were recently privileged to attend my son’s wedding. While that seems like a fairly obvious statement, it is even more of a privilege because my wife and I and our daughters flew to Amsterdam where the marriage ceremony was held. A wedding, a new “daughter”, being a proud father, a trip to Europe and…staying with my son and new daughter-in-law's parents for a week...what a gift! Planted in the city center of this great canal city, every moment in Amsterdam was full of life, vibrant activity and joy. Being welcomed into their home was a total blessing and one we fully embraced.
Into every life some rain must fall, and so it was with this trip. Our “rain” came in the form of four fights of stairs. Not regular stairs, they were one hundred and fifty year old Amsterdam stairs. At a very steep pitch and extremely narrow, each trip up or down came with a certain risk to life and limb.
My response to this workout was less verbal then mental. I wondered to myself over and over, how can these people do this day after day? They carry groceries, laundry and furniture up and down a passageway that by U.S. building code standards would be condemned. If I were living here, I would figure out how to put an elevator in! And I would be concerned about inviting anyone over 30 to dinner, for fear that they would never make it to the dinner table. My initial focus was entirely on the passageway to the reward and not the benefit of a welcoming home and wonderful people.
The insight came early for me as I commented to my son about the challenges of the climb. As he took the stairs two at a time, he simply said that “if he didn’t think about it, it wasn’t bad.” There is the challenge--not thinking about it! I think of myself as a “glass half full” kind of guy. Glasses yes, but steps? As I thought about it, I realized that there are all kinds of glasses and steps in my life.
Glasses represent the things I select to tolerate because the reward is something I have defined. Steps on the other hand represent the things presented that are not expected. While I look forward to the potential reward, I grumble up the steps and focus on the danger associated with the climb. Fortunately, my wife and daughters swept me along and soon the reward was so much more then the four flights of stairs that I took my son's advice and stopped thinking about them.
Back home, I am presented with glasses and steps every day. Things anticipated and things unexpected. These opportunities allow me to focus on the reward or the climb. The “win” or the danger; the reward or the cost. Our visit was more then we could have ever asked for. Joy, laughter, new friends, good food and relationships that will last the rest of our lives created more “glasses” that were overflowing then anyone deserves. And so, the climb became a simple cost exchanged for blessing. I quickly embraced this great truth shared by my son and looked past leg cramps, shortness of breath and the realization that one bag of groceries weighs a lot more when carried vertically then horizontally.
Looking back on our time there, I believe that my son, daughter-in-law and her parents all realized before our arrival that there would be a great truth revealed through this climbing process. So in tune was their combined discernment that they did what any wise hosts would do--they gave us a room on the second floor instead of the fourth!