Staying on top of the mountain

Sunday, February 28, 2010

You reach the top. "I've finally arrived," you say. You're on top of the mountain now, and you breathe a sigh of relief, pride and joy. Then your foot slips, a little bit at a time. You struggle to stay on top, but regardless of how hard you try, you gradually slide back to where you were, or farther down. Why must people leave their mountain peak?

You're at last where you've always wanted to be, but will your victory triumph long? Maybe you'll only need to come down the mountain halfway, learn a little more and start back up again. That's often how life works.

After I congratulated Janet recently on her new job at the library, she agreed that she was finally working where she had always wanted. She did hold a college degree in library science and her lifetime dream was officially reached -- that of a full-time main librarian. Although Janet was exactly where she wanted to be, it took many years of climbing to get to the top of her mountain. Her journey toward the top was a tedious one. She first had to exert considerable effort and time toward raising her children, and Janet like most, had her share of hardship along the way. Then as the children grew up and left, she was free to follow her pursuits. Circumstances have continued to improve, so now Janet is climbing upward. She seems so joyful. I wonder how much farther she must travel before actually reaching the top of her mountain.

It appears we are all continually striving toward the pinnacle of something -- toward a mountain top. A different twist is that a man, Ralph, is currently at the bottom of his mountain. Ralph has enjoyed the best of his world numerous times. He has felt fortunate, blessed and that God has certainly smiled upon him. But just when he began to feel comfortable, the rocks and soil began sliding from under his feet inch by inch. Some of his loved ones died.

While he stood at the highest point on his mountain he realized that without the love and support of those people, he felt vulnerable. He also encountered job complications. Ralph is doing a lot of soul searching to find his true self again. He feels he's lost his identity and he's seeking reassurance that he matters to someone.

Ralph wonders how he can rise up and start climbing back up his mountain. He has fallen through his safety net, and he's depressed and uncertain about his future. Fortunately, Ralph has chosen prayer as a beginning to get back up the side of the mountain.

Two different scenarios are presented. Janet has finally arrived at the top of her mountain, and Ralph has just fallen off his peak. Both are good people attempting to live good lives wondering why it's so difficult to get to and stay on top of your mountain.

Only God knows the answer to that question, but St. Augustine of Hippo says "Our hearts/souls are restless until they rest in thee." Regardless of what mountain height we are aiming for or what low ground we've fallen to, it doesn't matter. Nothing will fill that void inside except God.

Even though we must hold our head high, aim toward a goal and continue to hope, you can never stay on top of any mountain for long. Neither will anyone remain on the low ground unless he chooses.

Keep your heart pointed toward God and it won't matter if you're up or down because, regardless, you'll remain on top of any mountain, for God's there with you.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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