What can we learn from mountain goats about the necessity to adapt and change?
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 18:3 NIV
Ever since I climbed Sacajawea Peak in Montana without my telephoto lens, I wanted to see mountain goats up close. Or, at least up close with a telephoto lens. It seemed as if I always just missed the good shots.
The mountain goats scamped down a distant scree slope on one of my hikes. Once I had one in my sights and a hunter shot it before I could snap the photo (true story). I saw evidence we traveled the same paths the summer my daughter and I hiked in the Bridger Mountains each week. The goats left patches of white hair clinging to bushes and hoofprints in the soft ground.
Finally, the summer we drove to Alaska and our route took us through Banff National Park in Alberta, my luck changed. Pedro spotted mountain goats right next to the road. I whipped out my camera and started snapping photos of the nine goats. The adorable babies looked so soft and fluffy. I wanted to reach through my camera lens and pet them.
The teenagers looked cute, too. But the adults? Not so much. Huge hanks of fur hung from their shoulders as if someone had started shearing them but they escaped mid-process.
I could practically see their skin in the patches where the four-to-eight-inch-long fur had fallen off. The undergrowth looked clean, short, and sort of fuzzy. Clearly, the babies stole the show, but my mind kept wandering back to the adults.
Why Mountain Goats Must Adapt and Change with the Seasons
Mountain goats grow warm winter coats each fall to help them adapt from warm summer days to subzero temperatures. The thick, wooly undercoat gets covered by long, coarse hair for double protection.
When summer rolls around, their thick coats become unnecessary. If they didn’t shed them, they would overheat. The process might not look beautiful, but without the shedding, they wouldn’t thrive.
All too often I resist the process of shedding the unnecessary in my life. God sees things in me that only mattered for a season, and he gentle tugs away at them. I cling tightly to attitudes, opinions, and traditions, unwilling to shed what feels comfortable and necessary.
Seasons of change within me rarely look beautiful. I don’t like the frumpy feeling of shedding—of trying to figure out what God’s next best version of me might look like. I expect God to just shear away the old junk and make me look like a newborn kid. Often, the process takes time and adjustments and I get stuck in between the seasons.
Seeing the mountain goats reminded me I shouldn’t fear shedding the unnecessary. I need to let God pull away the layers. Shedding doesn’t hurt; clinging to the unnecessary could endanger my life.
While no one would classify a shedding mountain goat as ‘cute,’ other adjectives come to mind: majestic, beautiful, wise, and dignified. As I grow closer to God, I need to remember only babies are cute. I want to grow in grace and inner beauty and shed the unnecessary.
We must adapt and change to our environment, too. We need to stay true to our beliefs and our faith, but we need to shed the things that no longer serve us well.
Do you have anything you need to shed during this season of life?