I’m sitting in a coffee shop, typing. I judiciously spent my last quarters (for real, that’s all I had) on a latte and the room is warm with friendly-voiced people. It’s quite nice.
I’m also standing in front of a mountain, trying to look brave and shaking in my boots. An exceptionally tall mountain with snow on top. Also, steep. With falling rocks and an avalanche, most likely. And I have to climb this one on my own. I feel quite small.
One of these things is metaphorical, but they’re both very much happening.
I’m not the only one, am I? I’d wager a few of you are standing in front of mountains of your own. Maybe you’ve even taken an admittedly timid step forward, looking for something to cling to, trying to muster the courage to climb those first few harrowing meters. And maybe, the courage just isn’t mustering itself no matter how many times you play “Gonna Fly Now” on repeat. You try to open your mouth and utter a few brave words, but all that comes out is a stammer.
I don’t know what all of your individual mountains are (though I wish I could sit down with each one of you and hear what’s on your hearts). But I’ve made some observations. Among my peers, every one of our lives is in vast transition. As I expressed to a friend last Sunday after yet another change was effected, “There is no area of my life that isn’t in transit. It is all changing. Lots of it is good change, but change nonetheless. Almost too fast to absorb it all.”
When there is growth, there is change. When there is change, there is unknown. And when there is unknown, there is fear. You can try really hard with motivational quotes and fight songs and clever new perspectives (which are sometimes just clever new words), but then you look up from all the distraction and
The Mountain. Is. Still. There.
Perhaps your mountain is a relationship that needs to be fixed or a relationship that just won’t happen. A disappointment beyond what you expected. A road you need to walk. A grief you need to share. A pursuit that may end in failure or rejection. A lot of responsibilities that just need to be fulfilled. Maybe, like me, your mountain is a tangle of hopes, fears, questions, and the aforementioned unknown. Maybe your mountain isn’t as big and dramatic as all that — at least, not to an outsider.
But you’re the one who has to climb it.
You could always turn back and avert the struggle. You can retreat and return home relatively safe, reasonably unaffected, with no real trauma and certainly no significant injuries. After all, you can’t fail if you don’t take the test. There won’t be any major scarring, except in your soul where unfought battles lie dormant until something provokes them and the demons you didn’t fight emerge to haunt you. So, if you’d like to remain neutral, you can run back home and jump back in bed right now. And no one will be offended. In fact, maybe no one will even know. No chance taken, no visible harm done, all kinds of loneliness.
I speak from experience. Doubts I should have reconciled long ago but let linger. Battles I toyed with but never fought. More of an extended complaint than a journey.
You could spend your whole life building a wall around a mountain, and it wouldn’t make the mountain disappear.
What are you going to do about it?
Do you believe that no matter what the outcome, fighting the good fight will make you stronger? Do you believe that God keeps His promises? That He climbs behind, before, and alongside you? That His strength is enough to flood over your weakness and sustain you even if you do get pummeled? Does your belief compel you to take the first step?
I’m still only five foot four. The mountain only looks bigger since I decided to climb it. I’m still stammering (quite literally, sometimes). I’m still shaking in my boots. And yes, I’m scared as anything. But I’m going to tighten my laces and take the first step. Not by writing about every struggle instead of confronting it. Not by talking it to death without getting up from my seat. By fighting the good fight with grace.
It might be my Everest. It might be yours. But whether to let go or to take hold, to forge bonds or to break ties, to search or to bury, to rescue or to wage war, you’ve come to the foot of the mountain to climb, not retreat. Blessed are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God? —
The God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of Your salvation,
and Your right hand supported me,
and Your gentleness made me great.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.