The Climb

There is an old saying that goes something like this….. “Consider it a gift when tests and challenges come at you from all sides because under this kind of pressure the real you is forced out into the open…. and your faith, your real faith, (not what you say you believe) will be revealed in it’s true colors …… whether you like it or not”.

It seems a strange notion to be thankful for bad times. And even stranger still to rejoice when your nakedness is made public. Imagine throwing a party every time you were surrounded by difficulties.

What would people say? “Boy he throws lots of parties…. he’s a party animal!”

I read that little snippet of wisdom again this morning…… I needed to. Actually I read it yesterday too but it didn’t sink in until today. Sitting out on the patio, sipping coffee, looking at the trees and the sky (dark clouds actually…. but I’m a melancholic and dark clouds cheer me up….. perhaps because I know others will be miserable)….. anyway sitting there in the quiet I pondered these words. Then, in a mocking tone, (reminds me of a song) I said out loud how joyful I was for my current circumstances ….. I began naming each one e.g. “….. and yes I want to proclaim my joy over my empty bank account, how wonderful it is to have yet another opportunity to build up my credit rating….” etc etc.

The weird thing though, was that after a while I could see a pattern in my life, not so much of my failings but more along the lines of the journey I had made both as an artist (writer/musician etc) and as a person (father, husband, friend).

My mocking tone soon quieted as I recalled some of my past challenges, hurdles, trying moments, rights of passage…. all of which I had somehow survived (be it with a limp). Though there were seasons of great pain…. embarrassing failures….. during which I couldn’t hide my nakedness or shame…. feeling utterly helpless with no-one to talk to…. wishing that I could just crawl into a whole and die…….but, hey I made it through.

Surviving a trial is not without it’s cost….. but where I might have once looked down at others flailing in the mud (” just get over it and move on”…. the magic formula for everything)…. by trading in a little pride for a small amount of grace I learnt how to live amongst people who had once been ‘untouchables’ to me.

I had a dream in which I saw myself climbing a mountain. My journey had been long and hard and my stamina was nearing it’s end…. but I could see the mountain peek and this revived my spirit and so I pushed on, to finish ‘my race’. I assumed that, on reaching the crest I would look down at a beautiful valley…. one of milk and honey, lush and green with grapes the size of pomegranates. But instead I discovered that I had merely clambered up the first peak in what was the first of an entire mountain range….. with snow capped alps that went on and on into the distance.

And all that time I had surmised that I was climbing A mountain…. and when I was nearing the end I felt a huge sense of relief…. an expectation of reward, of completion, my duty will soon be done….. “chill the champagne”….. but it wasn’t the end ….. no…. no…. I’d been duped…… It was more of a long beginning (a very long intro).

And now, faced with another challenge what was I to do? I had made it this far…. so….. grumble, grumble, %^&*!, grumble…… Oh well I might as well start climbing the next mountain. At least the initial phase will be down hill into a valley of sorts….. Oh no, not another valley experience…. was it to be the valley of the shadow of death (where are those diminished chords?).

Challenges are funny things (hmmm). If the 20 year old version of me could have seen the circumstances I am facing today he would die of heart failure. But he didn’t, he just had to survive his own…. and from where I am standing today I can understand that they were quite difficult for him…. but he made it through to fight another day (and I am glad he did)…..

So if life is climbing a mountain….. you make one step at a time…. each step makes you stronger, each stumble or fall teaches you a lesson….. you bloody your knee and you curse but you are more careful where next you place your foot…. and as the incline gets steeper you start unloading unwanted baggage…. and this makes the climb a little less stressful.

I could go on and on but I have a party to get back to.

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  1. Wow. I just experienced the same feeling last week when my tooth broke and I had to have emergency dental surgery (yikes!).

    It’s so reassuring to know that we are not alone on our mountain climbing journey. It feels, at times, that we are, but we’re not. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.

    I recently re-watched Ken Burns’ documentary on Lewis & Clark, which is an inspiration in itself. At the time of their exploration of the newly purchased territory, not much was known. In fact we knew more about the moon when we sent men to the moon than we knew about this territory. When the Corps of Discovery arrived at the continental divide, they also believed when they reached the top they would look down to see the Pacific Ocean, and the end of their journey–the northwest passage to the East. No. They found the Rockies. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. Then they found the Sierra Nevadas.

    I appreciate your honesty; it ministers to me greatly.


  2. I know a lot about climbing mountains and often think of this analogy to the Christian walk. Recently I have the picture of 2 mountain climbers (or more) with one climbing a little then helping the next person up then the 2nd one goes up a little and helps the first one up and so on….not getting too far ahead or leaving anyone too far behind….’share each others burdens along the way’, keeping in step with each other……Chris, I got your cassette from a Salvation Army Ladies Retreat from the sale bin (had no idea who you were, discovered Eoghan Heaslip the same way).. – Chris Falson live….anyhow i wrecked it by playing it over and over and could only find a replacement recently on video so now have that…..beautiful music, my husband will even listen to it. God Bless you, and we will meet one day whether on the mountain or in the valley in this lifetime or in green pastures in the next!!

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