Monday, January 26, 2009

a (near) mountain-top experience

I just spent a week in Spain. It was great. While I have not found a hobby, since the creation of this blog I've developed into a more out-doorsy guy. I've solo-hiked and camped on the Bruce Trail, I've smelt many wild flowers, woken up early to watch sunrises, and have attempted summitting two mountains. To my great dismay, neither mountain was summitted.

It is not a happy thing to hike through snow and mud, scramble up slick rocks, get blown off your feet, and then not reach the top. The first mountain was in Morocco, and I was not prepared for 4 inches of snow that the Lonely Planet guide didn't mention. The second failure to summit in Spain hurt more. I was told 4 hours top and bottom. So I scheduled 5 hours to go up and down before nightfall in order to be safe. 3 hours into the hike I was no where near the top, and met a guy coming down who told me it was another 2 hours! I was frustrated and worried that I wouldn't reach the top. I committed to a faster pace. So far the path had been really flat and I was going along easily, so I thought a faster pace would might just do it. Turns out that the previous section of the hike was easy, but from now on it was steep and rocky, and with rain and cloud mist it was pretty dangerous to go quickly. I laboured for about 40 minutes at a good pace. At one point I thought I saw the peak, but was disappointed when the path just continued past it. Looks like I was going higher. Soon the path was no more, just spray-paint markers on rocks to tell you where you needed to climb. I was using all fours to get up some parts. It was exciting, but I just didn't know if I had the time. I committed to just ten more minutes, because I didn't know how much more light I had, and with the cloud cover it would get dark faster, and there was no way I wanted to be on that mountain in the dark. It was hard enough sticking to the path at it was.

When the 10 minutes was up, I decided to stop, not knowing how much further it was to the top. I took a video and lamented another failed attempt. I even pondered out-loud whether God was trying to teach me something in all of it. As I turned off the camera and looked up to where I thought the peak might be (I couldn't see because I was in the mountain's clouds and you can only see so far in a cloud), the wind blew and moved the cloud away so I could see the peak. It was nice to see it, but my heart nearly stopped when I saw what was on it. A cross. There it was, a white metallic cross at the top of the mountain. After the shock, I chuckled at the odd answer God was seeming to give my pondering as to whether he was trying to teach me something. Seeing the summit I tried to guess how much longer to the top. The path was not direct, and I believed I needed to turn back. I wavered about whether to attempt to reach the top, but decided against it. I knew I could reach it soon, but I didn't know if I could hit it and get back before dark. I took a picture of the barely visible cross (edited at top) and headed back. It was a painful turn-around.

On my way back, I was dealing with the pain on having turned back. For me, these outdoors adventures are more than kicks. They're metaphors for how I want to live my life. Pushing past tough obstacles, strectching my limits, and taking risks in order to experience great rewards. Not succeeding in one of these outdoorsy things fills me with a fear that I won't succeed in life. If I don't push myself to summitt the mountain, will I push myself to follow God's will if He calls me to do something crazy hard, like live my life overseas?

Then I realized that these metaphors, while cool, are not necessary parallels to my life. In fact, to have tried to summitt that mountain without knowledge of how long it would take could've endangered my life, rendering the metaphor useless (because I'd be dead). I began to find comfort and joy in knowing that I had chosen life and obeying God's call in the future over a less important immediate goal of mountain climbing. That was a good lesson learned and I didn't feel so bad coming down.

Upon my return to civilization, I told a couple guys who were planning on going up the next day how long it took me, and how it's way more than 4 hours. Well one of those guys took the advice, and ended up climbing the mountain in 4 hours on the dot. Wow! He explained he ran through the initial easy parts, cutting down his time immensely. He also told me that from what I described to him about where I stopped and turned around, it was only another 5-10 minutes to the top. 5 MINUTES! ARGH! All my contentment and comfort vanished and I returned to God, complaining to Him for no good reason, and berating myself for not trying harder. It hurt bad. It still smarts.

That picture of the cross I took at the top of the mountain is a great comfort to me. Even if I could've pushed myself harder and summitted, and built this great life metaphor for future reference, that cross tells me that there's already been an accomplishment greater than any metaphor I could've made. Christ walked this painful earth, took the sins of humanity upon Himself, broke their power of death and came back to life. I believe that, and now that same power is at work in me, pushing me on to obedience to His call. It's a worthy call that I won't fully obey, but I'm very hopeful because He's already stuck a big cross at the end of my life that says, "It is finished," and that gives me great freedom and power to trudge onwards.

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At 9:59 AM, Blogger Angelic Engineer said...

Oh, I can't imagine how frustrating that would have been for you! But I'm really glad you didn't pull a Graydon/Byron. We don't need you lost in Spain! You should try climbing some mountains in Alberta :)

At 12:10 PM, Blogger Loco said...

and you got all of that insight by climbing a mountain.

i like to do that in bed. :P

i'm glad you picked life over death though. ur metaphors would've been lost if u didn't get a chance to write them down coz ur dead.

if u pulled a graydon/byron, i would've been tres upset.

At 6:14 AM, Blogger Loco said...


At 6:40 PM, Blogger Nico said...

haha, I love this post! Still climbing mountains I see:) (metaphorically speaking) Good to hear you're doing well. Though I feel like you're being way to hard on yourself, it's in our weaknesses that God is glorified.

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Lydia said...

ahh this post was great. (and i agree with angela..haha)


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