I wanted to make a hammock earlier this year.  I wanted to try it out for the river trip and campouts we had coming up.  So, I searched out the great expanse of the Internet and found lots of patterns, lots of styles, and various materials.  I finally settled on a particular design and material, changed up the design to suit my needs, and did all the cutting, sewing, and readjustments.  I’ve never sewn with a sewing machine before, so I had to learn how to do that as well as solve all the unforeseen problems that came with it.  Finally, it was done…the main hammock.   But I had yet to prove my hammock:  It had to hold me up.  For a significant amount of time.  It also had to be durable and hold together for the activity that it would face.

I found some rope and learned how to lash it to a couple of posts on my deck.  I positioned myself towards the middle of the hammock, stretched out the hammock, and sat in it while my feet touched the ground.  So far, it held.  The ropes held and didn’t slip from the posts.  The hammock didn’t tear.  My sewing didn’t get undone.  The deck posts held me up. 

I put up my feet and went into my hammock completely.  I was surprised and delighted at how strong the ripstop nylon was.  It didn’t stretch where I sat.  It didn’t stretch where the ropes held it.  It didn’t stretch when I moved inside or when I swung.  This was GREAT!  The kids thought so too…because they wanted to try it out.  So I got out…and one got in, and another, and then another.  And it held!  No stretch marks.  Nice!

Eventually, I made a bug net and obtained an old rain fly that I repurposed as a hammock rain fly.  I set everything up between our tree and deck:

My Son and My Hammock

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Well…apparently that was enough to entice 2 of my sons to try it out for the night.  And so they did.  And so they slept…until the wee hours of the night when it got really cold…and that’s when we discovered “cold butt syndrome”.  We discovered that you need a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad as well for the cooler nights.  My eldest also took it for a night….this time, with a sleeping bag and pad, and reported that he was comfortable throughout the night.

And so went on the hammock-proving for the next several days.  Convinced that it would hold me and that it could stand the weather, I took it to our river trip and week long campout where I would prove it against the elements, and against me:

 

At the River Trip

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And the week long campout

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Lessons Learned

There’s an interesting principle to learn from this:  You can determine, or prove, the strength of something by having something else go against it….whether that “something else” is you or another. 

Before this experience, I never really knew the strength of ripstop nylon.  I didn’t realize how strong paracord is, how useful black tulle could be, and how difficult it is to sew ripstop nylon and black tulle.  Now, I know.  Could I have just given in and bought a hammock that was better sewn, better designed, and saved myself the time, cost, and work?  Sure could’ve!  But then, the worth…the value…the skills learned…the wisdom….of the whole experience….I would’ve missed all of that!

So, what got proven in this whole thing?  The hammock…yes.  But, even more…I was the one that got proven.  Could I trust myself, my research, my skills, my previous abilities, my machines, my helpers, to put this all together?  This experience PROVED me.  It tested what I was capable of learning anew and building something I had never built before…and actually using it successfully. 

A Greater View

And so it is with Life, whether physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual.

Here’s an excerpt from something I’m currently reading…called The Infinite Atonement:

Some may contend that the Savior cannot empathize with those who succumb to temptation because he never yielded and, therefore, he could not understand the apparently unique circumstances of those who did.  The fallacy of such an argument is exposed by C.S. Lewis:

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.  A silly idea is…that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.  After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting it, not by giving in.  You find out the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.  A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.  That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness.  They have lived a sheltered life by always giving inWe never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.

Interesting thought, huh?  You don’t know how “bad” you are until you’ve tried really to be “good”.  Much like dieting…you don’t know how much you’ve really given in to your cravings, how much you don’t want to give up your food…until you try to get rid of the “bad foods” from your daily diet.  The more you try to “be good”, the more you realize just how flawed you really are. 

So how does the rest of the world suggest we deal with this realization of our flawed self? 

Diminish the perception of weaknesses to boost self-esteem.  Accept, tolerate, and embrace what is less than best.  How about apathy in the form of “what does it matter?”, “it’s just a little thing”, “no one will care”.  Then there’s “if you can’t beat’ ‘em, join ‘em.”  There are more ways…but they all have a central message:  Give in.  You can’t fight it.  You can’t stand against it.  You can’t win.  Be a team player, keep your mouth shut, keep your standards and your morals and your religion to yourself.  Just give in.

This is the sheltered life…the one that always gives in…to external pressures of societal conformity and compliance, the subtle advertisements of appetite and self-gratification, to the internal cravings, temptations, and desires of an undisciplined, immoral heart, mind, and body.   When we give in…not only do we not know the strength of the enemy we fight…but we also do not know our own strength. 

We remain…unproven…except in one thing: that we are unwilling to stand against our weak self.

This world rejects morals, spiritual standards, and God.  Rather, it encourages you to “Obey your Thirst” and feed your cravings instead.  It will pump that message out with fun, excitement, and play so you’ll raise your hands in the air like you don’t care.  It will tell you there is no God…and that Satan is nothing.  There’s no evil…so you aren’t bad…so don’t worry about being good either.  You are just an organism that perceives the world through physical stimuli, easily fooled, easily manipulated.  Morals, religion, and God are mere social constructs to keep a society at bay.  There’s no such thing as temptation; they’re just carnal impulses…and you give in to those.

Just give in.  Right?

No. 

There’s More

There’s more to this life than this life.  There’s more to us than what we currently know of ourselves.  There’s more, and we must rise above this whole idea of “giving in”.  As Christ never yielded to temptation but, rather, stood against it and never gave in…so must we if we are to prove ourselves stronger than impulse, virtuous over immorality, talented over boring, God-like instead of God-less. 

We came to this world…not just to be tested…not just to have the trials of life fall upon us and batter us from all sides.

No.  We came to this world to prove ourselves.

“We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it.”

Only then do we realize the truth about who we really are.

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