Have you ever been hiking in the mountains and looked around for the trail markers to make sure that you’re on the right path? Usually, these signs are pretty visible, but some are slightly overgrown with moss and blend into their forest surroundings. These markers show us where to go, and they also point back to where we’ve been. Trail markers aren’t found solely on hiking trails; they weave their way through our lives as well. If we look closely, we can see a tapestry of mile markers pointing back to where we’ve come from and showing the path we took to become who we are now.
There are moments in our life where everything changes. Moments that flip a switch in our brains and cause us to see things in a new way or times where we suddenly take a hard left turn and find ourselves somewhere we can’t go back from. These are times when we shift and change; they are moments of becoming. These are the mile markers of our lives.
They don’t have to be significant mountain top experiences; they could be a midnight epiphany or an early morning conversation. Whatever form they take, they are moments where we can no longer continue living as we were, where we have grown and changed. These are moments of character development. We’re used to recognizing these transformations from the stories that stir our hearts and capture our imaginations. It’s when the hero realizes what they need to do to save the people they love, or the conversation with a mentor that points them toward the path towards their defining story, or the moment they step out onto the battlefield. We see these mile marker moments in movies, books, and if we take a moment to pause, we’ll see them in our own lives as well.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our lives that we walk past our mile markers without even realizing it. Before we know it, we’ve reached the mountain top and started descending the other side without appreciating the view or the journey we took to get there. However, when we stop to reflect on all that we’ve done and gone through, we can see the evidence of how God has moved in and through our lives. Each moment is an indication of how God is growing, pruning, refining, and sanctifying us. We may not always like the process, but the person that He is shaping us to be will always be worth the journey.
As I said earlier, these moments can be big or small, painful or beautiful. And sometimes, you don’t even realize that they’re your mile marker moments until you look back on them, while others are evident the moment that they happen. For me, one of those moments was when I broke my ankle (you can read the story here), which at first glance doesn’t sound all that life-changing or perspective-shifting. The truth is that that moment was an unexpected left turn that took me down a path that has led me to where I am now. The moment those bones broke apart was the same moment that my plans for the future, ideas of what I wanted, who I was going to be, and how I viewed God broke apart as well. The path that that trail marker started me on was full of ups and downs, heartache and healing, but it was all sparked by the moment I fell off that horse. Without that single moment in time, I don’t know who I would’ve become or where she would be in the world right now. We’ll never know what could’ve been if we never encountered the turning points of our lives; all we know is that because of those experiences we are who we are today.
Each mile marker moment we encounter shapes us into someone new. The good, bad, beautiful, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, soul healing, perspective-shifting moments are what define and refine us. They are the road map that points to where we’ve come from and sets the stage for where we are going.
Maybe you’re looking back at the last five years of your life, and you’re struggling to see what your mile marker moments are because nothing all that big has happened to you. But the fact of the matter is that it’s not all about the big flashy moments. Your mile markers might be a conversation you’ve had with a close friend, a prayer that was answered, a documentary that you saw, when you finally put down roots, or anything in between. Any moment that caused you to pause and shift your perspective is a mile marker, and everyone will have their own unique set of them. My encouragement to you is to take a moment and try to pinpoint the moments in your life –big and small – that have shaped you and see where God has grown and guided you. In looking back, don’t forget to look ahead and take note of your next mile marker when it comes along because you never know when it might pop up.