Ah, the "mountain-top experience." Very well named. So much of my time is spent seeking it. But life in this world demands that after the experience, I must come down.
Coming back from the retreat last week left me so out of sorts in my routine. I was off kilter for days. How can the lessons I learned about climbing back down from Olomana help me make the transition to life in the valley?
Here are four lessons I've discovered:
Lesson #1: Stop wishing for a life lived at the "top" or for the helicopter ride down, just get moving.
I really didn't want to come down from that beautiful place. It was such an effort to get there, I just wanted to savor it. But the sun was setting, and I really had no choice. So, instead of having a tantrum, I got myself up, and headed back down the trail. If I had really stopped to think about all those steep cliffs and rope descents, I would have become paralyzed with fear. Not helpful. So I adopted Elizabeth Elliot's mantra, "Just do the next thing," and started putting myself through the motions.
Lesson #2: Use the same ropes you used to get up, to get yourself down.
Those holy habits that I'm learning to use to get up to the mountain-top experience, are also helpful when it's time to scale back down. The disciplines of my regular quiet time, hard stops for prayer, scripture memorization, and journaling, all help me focus on Jesus and give me strength to come back down into the plain or valley where the majority of my life is lived.
Lesson #3: Don't look a the drop-off, just keep your eyes on the next step.
When coming down those big boulders, it was necessary to look down to place your next step. I had to focus very purposefully on the rock where I would step, and not the sheer drop just beside it. I really don't like heights, so this was a test of my focus. I just couldn't afford to let my eyes stray. When coming back down to the "everyday" of life, keeping my focus on the Solid Rock helps to push back fear and build faith.
Lesson #4: Take the mountain-top experience with you down to the valley - and share it!
As our group came down the mountain, we just couldn't stop talking about how wonderful it was. We took pictures to remember and share. Now, when I pass by that mountain, I will always remember that day. It looks so high and difficult to climb. It's hard to believe we where really there. Those memories will last many years. How will anyone know that the climb was worth it unless we tell them?
A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.
I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!
He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.
The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.
The Lord keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.
As time goes on, I may discover more lessons, but this will do for now. God is good. He never wastes any experience. He is the Good Shepherd that speaks to me in ways that I can understand. I pray that these discoveries will be a blessing to you, too.
Photos by Jake Heaton, co-moutain climber.