The other day I was sharing with my students how there is a song, which has kept me focused during a challenge, is Miley Cyrus’s song, The Climb. In the song, she talks about how it is not about the mountain, but about the climb. When I was pastoring, I once talked about some of the spiritual lessons I had learned from the one time I mountain climbed.
It has been decades since I climbed a mountain, but the memory of doing so has been helpful to me. See for me, my spiritual journey is like climbing a mountain. I have climbed some easy spiritual mountains in my life; those which are like hiking up a path or a scrambling over a few rocks. Then there are those mountains we climb, which require us to have some basic tools, especially when we need to scale the face of a mountain. Most experienced mountain climbers will tell you never to climb a mountain by yourself. You should always have someone with you, one person is the leader, and the other person is the second. In our spiritual lives, we need to remember the Infinite is our leader and we are the second.
See in mountain climbing, each person has one end of the climbing rope tied into his or her climbing harness, a device that secures the climber to the rope in case of a slip. The leader’s job is to lead the climb by following a natural path to each successive ledge or resting spot. The leader also places climbing equipment at various points along the ascent. When attached to the climbing rope, the hardware becomes a series of anchors that hold a climber in the event of a fall.
The second feeds rope out of pulls it in as the leader progresses upwards. The second also passes the rope through a friction device that attaches to the climbing harness. Should the leader fall, the second can hold tightly to the rope, which creates enough friction to stop the rope’s movement and break the leader’s fall.
After the leader reaches a ledge and secures an anchor, the second begins climbing, following the leader’s route and gathering the hardware. When the second reaches the leader, the team rests and then proceeds by climbing another rope length. You should know leading is stressful and tiring. Sometimes, the leader and the second switch positions. Like any relationship, it takes time for a team to learn how to work together. The awesome thing though is that when we are mountain climbing with the Infinite, we always have our harness on and the Creator never lets go of our rope.
While it is important to have your harnesses and your rope, it is also important to have some other instruments as you climb mountains. One is a map of the terrain. It is our path up the mountain. When we are walking on paths that have been cleared, we might not think we need our map. However, when climbing most mountains, we find the terrain becomes steeper and steeper, and sometimes all we have is our relationship with the Infinite pulling us a ropes length at a time to keep us going until we reach the top.
As hard as reaching the top can be, there is something awesome about reaching the top. Going higher and being able to see you are getting closer to the top is energizing. The closer we get to the top, the more humble and spiritual we become. Our help is not found at the base of the mountain, our help comes in the process of climbing the mountain. Because by the time we get to the top of the mountain, we have been transformed.
See it is all about the climb. It is not about the departure or the arrival, but about the journey. It is about making sure we have a sure footing before we ascend the mountain. It is about learning how to stay at a plateau long enough to learn what the Creator is teaching us. Moving too quickly can be dangerous. Our zeal, or our want-it-now mentality, can make us want to take a helicopter shortcut to the top in order to skip levels. But the climb is an important step-by-step learning experience. The most attractive shortcuts lead to disaster.
I have fallen many times in my life. I tried climbing from the faith ledge to virtue and knowledge ledges while I doubted the Infinite’s love for me. Accepting the love of the Creator was a basic truth I did not have a firm grip on. Not understanding the Divine’s love for me caused me to stumble, never allowing me the required sure footing needed for a successful climb. As I continue to climb, there are moments I continued to stumble.
Lack of self-confidence and worth caused me to stumble and fall and become wounded, hindering my climb. Such feelings caused depression and strongholds. At the time, I didn’t realize why I wasn’t getting victory over these challenges in my life–I didn’t understand the reason I struggled with the same challenges.
Believing in myself would heal my wounds and allow me to climb strongly again, but somewhere on the journey, when I hadn’t taken thoughts captive, I allowed the lack of self-confidence back in resulting in deeper wounds. Hurtful wounds caused more self-doubt and obstructed my climb even more. I would be stuck on a level recovering, frustrated that I was not climbing higher. At times, I knew what was holding me back, other times I was deceived and didn’t understand the reasons.
The good news is that I can slip and stumble, I can incur wounds and injuries, and I can suffer setbacks, but the Divine within me continually picks me up and helps me find the path again. I just have to trust the Infinite who is my climbing partner. Climbing these levels can be very hard especially when faced with unexpected or particularly difficult challenges. But, the climb can be seen as exciting when we reach the top. It becomes an adventure—a chance to see what the Infinite will do with us and through us as we climb together.