Monday, March 30, 2015

Conquering Our Own Everests

"It is not the mountains we must conquer, but ourselves." Sir Edmund Hillary

"The kingdom of heaven is within you." Luke 17:21

In 1953, the highest mountain in the world had not yet been summited.  The year before, several climbers from a Swiss expedition attempted the summit of Everest, but were forced to turn back because of bad weather and exhaustion.  When Hillary was offered the chance to climb the mountain the next year (only one expedition a year was allowed back then, from the Nepalese side), he initially declined, but friends talked him into remaining on the team.  The expedition set up base camp in March of 1953, and as we all now know, on May 28 (a date I won't forget since it is my birthday), at 11:30AM Edmund Hillary and his climbing assistant Tenzing Norgay reached the highest point on the face of the earth.  They began the morning with snow and wind howling in every direction.  Hillary's boots had frozen solid outside the tent.  He spent two hours warming them before climbing to the top.  Hillary's first words to a long time friend, George Lowe, on returning were, "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off."  

Of course the climb was a remarkable engineering, organizational and physical achievement.  What I have been struck by, as I have read a bit about that first summit of Everest was that it was an even larger personal and psychological achievement.  To be the first person ever to do something in the history of human-kind is a huge barrier in and of itself.  There were countless moments that the expedition almost decided that the climb was too hard, that the effort was too great, that the strain was too difficult.  When you think about it, you only summit a 29,028 mountain one way - one step at a time.

I have been thinking about the fact that all people must climb a kind of spiritual Everest in their lives.  We all have different mountains to climb, but all of us must embark on our own expeditions of the soul.  Our own personal summits have different forms and take different trajectories.  As a pastor of 15 years, I have noticed that there are at least four different kinds of personal Everests that people face:

Personal Insecurities
The great former pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, Robert Schuller, once said that we are, all of us, hands down our own worst enemies.  Even before we throw out a big idea for others to decide upon, most of us come up with more reasons that anyone else why that thing cannot be accomplished.  Hillary himself, had deep insecurities about climbing Everest.  When he reached the summit, finally, he refused to have his picture taken there, possibly out of a sense of not coming to grips with what had just taken place.  

Personal Sins
The apostle Paul introduces one of his most important letters, 1 Timothy, with the firm sentence, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst" (1 Timothy 1:15).  If Paul was the worst of sinners, I have often thought about myself, I certainly am beneath Paul.  The personal sins that comprise our own Everests are different for everyone: jealousy, anger, lust, drink/drugs, malicious talk, slander, corruption, greed.  These mountains must be summited step by step through the course of our lives, with the grace of God.

Courage To Strike Out
Hillary's chosen avocation was actually far from mountaineering, but surprisingly - beekeeping.  Though climbing tall mountains were always Hillary's grand dream for his life, his initial instincts were to live in his home in New Zealand and make honey.  Hillary says that his life journey began with a deep personal commitment to climbing Everest, which was must harder in it's own way, than actually climbing Everest.  The mountain had to climbed in Hillary's mind before it could be summited in actuality.  The same is true for all of our personal Everests. 

Perseverance to Continue
For two consecutive stays, Hillary and his team simply stayed in their tents on the South Col at 27,900 feet.  The summit loomed over their heads like a great trophy on the horizon, but something inside of each of them prevented them from actually setting out and climbing it.  Perseverance was the inner strength to keep going.  Perseverance told Hillary on the morning of May 28, 1953 - and now forward, now or never!

What are your own Personal Everests?  What are the mountain challenges that you face as you climb your own summit?  God is with and I on our journeys.

This is Holy Week.  Next Sunday is Easter!

Jesus' own journey, Jesus' own Everest, took him from a Palm Sunday parade to the cross on a Friday afternoon, 1,982 years ago this year.  We are so grateful that Jesus conquered this summit for each of us.

All For Now,

No comments:

Post a Comment