Funny thing about mountains… there are no native signs pointing the way to the top, no loud speakers blaring “climb me”, nor does the persistent climber find herself rewarded at the top with a little medal. And yet we are compelled, pulled, drawn to the challenge… to climb to the top. To reach the apex, arms extended in the air in victory, not victory over another competitor, victory over our own internal struggles.
Yet we cannot live on the mountaintop, no protection from the elements, no place to grow food, no room to move and breathe. We must live in the valley, knowing the mountain rests in the distance.
So what of that journey up and down? What to make of the stumbles along the way? What to make of the moments when we fear we are lost? What to make of the worry that we have not the stamina or have not carefully packed for the journey? What to make of the amazing flowers that thrive close to the summit? Where does that exhilaration come from? That extreme and powerful sense of happiness, no happiness is not the right word, connection with something. Is it the stupendous view? Is it the sense of standing on top of the world? Is it the sense of accomplishment, success, discovery? What of the tears at the top, tears of joy, tears of relief that the stumble along the way did not land in a steep and potentially deadly fall?
And what do we bring down? How does life in the valley change? Recently Erwin McManus criticized the Promise Keepers events (events that he participated in). He appauded the experinece that was created, but criticized the events since the “men need more than an annual experience. They need a process to help them become the kind of people they want to become” (WIE Aug-Oct 2008 p 68). Perhaps his assessment of Promise Keepers is correct. But do we need a 10-step program to retain what was gleaned on that mountain top?
Maybe the process isn’t a process, but a way of living. Maybe we don’t seek the mountain top for the sake of the experience. Maybe the external experience is simply a confirmation of the internal. A reminder that we have learned to negotiate the rocky field. That we stopped to think carefully about how to cross the river. That we listened to our bodies and stopped to rest and drink water. That we persisted to reach the top and not just that plateau that looked like the top. That we sought advice from others on the best path to follow. Maybe that rocky mountain high is simply confirmation that we carefully considered the options, picked the wise path, and persistently followed to it’s conclusion. Perhaps that sense of serenity, contentment, and relief, is just the confirmation of choosing the right path. And in choosing that right path, finding that we have changed, and changed permanently, and changed for the better.