Back in high school, I had the opportunity to go on a student ambassador trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland. While traveling through Wales, one of our excursions was a trek up the highest mountain in the country, Mount Snowdon. At 3,560 feet, it was the first time I had ever made an attempt to climb a mountain, but I made it to the top only slightly winded and the view was amazing! I even went after a mountain goat and caught a small tuft of wool from its backside! Several years later I attended a family reunion at Yosemite National Park, and had the opportunity to climb Mt. Yosemite with some of my cousins. For context, I should explain that I live in Texas. It’s mostly flat here, and much closer to sea level than the base of Mt. Yosemite, let alone it’s peak. My cousins, however, live in Washington state and spend a lot more time climbing than I do. My only previous experience was that of being in Wales, so I enthusiastically agreed to go. It wasn’t long before they had to leave me behind, but I was determined to finish what I’d started, so I continued on. Mount Yosemite is quite a bit steeper of a climb, and at 13,061 feet, I was in way over my head.
By the time I’m three-quarters of the way to the top, my whole body is shaking, and I begin to cry out of sheer exhaustion. I sit for a moment, wishing that there is some way a helicopter can retrieve me, because I really don’t believe myself capable of going any farther. A few other hikers begin to pass me coming down the mountain, and seeing my condition, they offer several words of encouragement. While it is nice of them to say so, “You can do it” just is not believable. What is the most encouraging is one woman who says, “You’re only 5 minutes away. It’s just over that ridge.” My problem is that I am focusing on my lack of physical strength, instead of the summit. True to her word, the peak is just over that ridge and I am able to rest my feet in a clear pool of water and lay on the sun-baked rocks to restore my energy.
At church this morning, we were singing about God’s ability to move mountains, and I started thinking back to these two previous experiences. Right now, reflecting on 2017 and looking forward to 2018, it feels somewhat like the Yosemite climb five minutes from the top, but there’s so much farther to go! So maybe this is more like the Everest base-camp? I looked that one up too, and base-camp sits at 17,600 feet! I wouldn’t even make it to base-camp on my own strength, but this metaphorical climb has a summit worth reaching for… I’m not referring to wealth or fame, but the face of Jesus himself! If I knew God were waiting at the top, I would do whatever necessary to make it because focusing on the knowledge of what is at the summit would be motivation enough. I’ve been far too short-sighted, making things too complicated, trying to just balance the needs of today and feeling like tomorrow’s goals are always beyond reach…
2018 will have its own challenges, maybe you are struggling with a Mount Snowdon, or maybe you share my sentiments that 2017 got you to the base-camp of Everest and you’re staring up at the summit but focusing on your own failures, weaknesses, or limitations. Let me share with you what God reminded me of this morning – one week in to the New Year – “But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I haven’t reached the summit yet, so I can’t tell you that you only have five minutes to go or that rest is just beyond the next ridge. I can tell you that God has been with me, and often carried me, through an awful lot of very difficult times, and His strength is more than enough to carry you too. He is here – in the middle of our weaknesses – cheering us on to the summit. The climb is worth it. He is worth it. Don’t give up.
Mount Everest (near base-camp)