Friday, November 30, 2007

Climbing and ministry

When I lived on the west coast my passion was mountaineering. I enjoyed all aspects of climbing, from rock gyms to local crags to summiting Mt. Shasta in the summer of 1997. One thing that climbing taught me (that I need to apply to ministry) is that it's not a sprint. I remember during the Shasta climb my partner and I reached the 10,000 foot point pretty quickly. The parking lot was around an elevation of 7,000. Anyway, we had considered going higher, but by the time we reached Helen Lake (which was at 10,000) I was feeling some altitude discomfort. My head was aching and my stomach was uneasy. We decided to pitch the tent and spend the night acclimating. I'm glad we did that because the following morning I woke up feeling much better, ready to attack the rest of the mountain above.

I've recently have had ministry experiences in which a spiritual "altitude sickness" seemed to arise. The body is aching, the head is hurting and the screaming need is to stop and rest a bit. Such occasions remind me of climbing Mt. Shasta, where rest points are necessary to acclimate to the new altitude. Try climbing too fast, and the body will react negatively.

Another thing I learned in climbing Mt. Shasta was that the destination (the summit) was made significant by the journey. Had a helicopter simply dropped me off at 14,179 ft (the summit pictured above) the view would not have held the same beauty. There's something about using the ice ax, the crampons, the ropes and the warm layers to ascend the mountain that make the view more picturesque. Were it not for those moments when each step took 5 seconds, the air felt thin and the wind was too loud to think, the goal would not have been so special. Ministry has incredible parallels to climbing. I have to remember them, meditating on what God has already taught me.

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