With great anticipation, I made a Facebook post last week. Yeah, I skipped the blog post, but my grandson Josh and I were on our way to climb Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48 states. So I put up a pic of our goal, Mt. Whitney, at 14,508 feet. It's above. Under it is Trail Camp, at 12,000 ft. the last stop before Whitney.
Understand my eagerness to climb it. An uncle taught me to drink from a bottle at Onion Valley above Independence when I was just one. Since then, Sierra trips have been imbedded in my life, and I need regular mountain fixes. But my last backpacking trip had been 40 years before, and the hard training of climbing the bleachers at my school ceased for two months before the trip, due to moving and settling back in. Still, I knew I could do it.
So, Josh summitted. I didn't. The last 2 miles before Trail Camp kicked my butt. The first thoughts of yielding began in the last mile or so, and I fought them mentally. But Whitney lay 5 miles from our camp, followed by an 11 mile return to our truck at the trailhead. Could I do the 16 miles and survive? Probably for the first time in my life, I allowed discretion to be the better part of valor.
So the next day, Josh climbed to the summit, and I hiked down to Mirror Lake to wait. That 5 hours gave a lot of opportunity to meditate on my failure. I analyzed why, a combination of age and not enough conditioning. But I also pondered why I felt so driven, why it took some time to reach my decision--the right one. Most frightening, I discovered two principles that directly impact how I follow Jesus. They might touch you as well.
When young, struggles with self worth obsessed me, and I learned competing gave a dangerous sense of esteem. If I could outdo you, then I was better and had some value. I recognized this decades ago, but the struggle remains. We passed a couple on the trail; he was just a year younger and I had to beat him to the summit. Why? I was willing to push myself beyond safety. Stupid, to allow competition to be so strong. And don't we often compare our walk with God, our accomplishments for him, with others? A more dangerous behavior, really, than when on a mountain, for it spoils our soul. Incidentally, Josh saw him on the summit, but I wasn't there. I love God's sense of humor.
Second, the desire to win, to succeed, to get desired results, conquers many of us. I deeply desired to reach the peak. The consolation--I know I gave it all I had. Slowly, I'm learning to let some things go. My age and level of conditioning prevented success, IF I defined success as getting the result, I failed. But if I define it as giving it my best shot, then I did succeed. Failing to reach the top wasn't a failure. Spiritually, do we consistently see the results we desire? In overcoming a particularly clinging temptation? To grow our ministry to what we'd like it to be? Perhaps we'd be better off spiritually if we do our best and leave the rest to God. As finite humans, we can't do it all. We'll fail. We'll fall. So, we can quit in despair, or get back on track.
Kick Starting the Application
To what extent do you struggle with being too competitive or results-driven? How has it impacted your connection with God? Where does pride fit into your walk? What are some issues you can begin to let go of? How can you balance a genuine desire for positive results with being finite and imperfect?
PS Next year...