Friday, June 12, 2015
Palisades on Lake Superior
From the first time I went backpacking in high school, I discovered that mountains are deceptive. From a distance they do not look nearly as tall—and challenging—as they are. What looks like an hour’s hike to the uninitiated is usually more like a four or five hour ascent. I’ve heard many young guys in particular brag about how easy the mountain will be and how quickly they will reach the top. Half way up, as they pause, huffing and puffing, they are singing a different tune!
Mountains are also deceptive in the way that you can see the whole elevation from a distance, peak and all. However, once you are on it, it is hard to tell where you are in elevation. Many times I have thought I must be approaching the peak, only to arrive at a lookout point where I could get a view of things and found that I had not yet attained the halfway point!
The parallels between climbing a physical mountain and maturing spiritually are numerous. From a distance, the ascent to become more Christ-like seems so simple. We overcome some big sin in our lives and establishing a regular time in Scripture, and we presume that we are almost at the top. Indeed, when I was in 7th grade, I figured I was pretty spiritually mature!
Growing up—physically and spiritually—sobered me tremendously. Now, some 45 years later, I realize how high the peak is and how long and hard the trail is leading up to it. When I look at my progress these days, I think I have hardly even begun the ascent up the mountain. Of course that is not true: I have been making some steady progress all of these years. What is different is my perspective. I now have a realistic view of what spiritual formation is all about—the mountain is so much higher than I ever imagined!
That realistic view, however, does not need to discourage us. The fact that I’ll spend the rest of my life climbing and still have a long way to go does not in any way make me want to quit. Rather, it brings perspective and some humility into my life. Moreover, it challenges me. No, I’ll never get close to the top, achieving any sort of perfection in this life. However, I want to see how far I can grow! From time to time when I get to a scenic overview, I want to savor the view—recognizing how far the Lord has brought me. I want to enjoy all the wildflowers along the path. Above all, I want to enjoy the company of the Lord—my guide—along the way, because he indeed in my companion, as well as the mountain upon which I am growing!
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers