A picture of the Himalayan mountains from my trip to India this past June
There are mountains in the distance, and I’m oh-so-terrified of, excited by, uncomfortable with them and the idea of the future. I guess the question I find myself asking is: can I can climb them?
Today, at my Christian club’s weekly meeting, we learned a bit about these mountains, specifically the one Jesus climbed in Matthew 17. Our lesson for the day: while deserts are where our identity is challenged, mountains are where we receive our identity.
In Matthew 17, Jesus took three of His disciples and led them up a high mountain. Once they got to the top, He was transfigured before them, His face shining like the sun, His clothes as white as the light.
Matthew 17:5: While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Essentially, Jesus climbed the mountain, and His identity was confirmed by His Father.
Flash back to a couple of hours earlier, to this morning when I spent some time reading Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. In the book, Krakauer tells of his experience climbing Mount Everest. But instead of the identity-affirming experience he sought, he told a horrific tale in which four out of five of his colleagues died in an unexpected storm.
But anyway, coincidentally enough, my usual curious (and procrastinating) self decided to look into what it takes to climb a mountain.
As I read, I found that most expert climbers mentioned these five points:
- Choosing the right mountain
- Getting in good shape (and not climbing until you’re ready)
- Being prepared with the right equipment and supplies
- Finding a good guide
- Going ahead and start climbing
At this point, maybe you’re asking: how in the world does this relate to the mountains that Jesus climbed, the metaphorical mountains of our lives?
But when you think about it, it’s all pretty relatable:
For one, in our spiritual walks, we can’t just go climbing any and every mountain. There are times in our lives when we will be on a mountain, affirming our identity – but there are times where God has called us to be in a desert. God picks our mountain treks carefully, taking into account: timing, the height of the mountain, and our spiritual strength.
Jesus literally climbed atop a high mountain in the chapter. We have to be able to climb up the mountain, and like Jesus, this means being separate from everyone below, with only a select few people in company.
More importantly, what does every Christian mountain climber need in his or her life? A guide. We need our guide and the supplies He freely gives us: the Spirit of God, the Word of God (and maybe a pair of good shoes).
I think God is telling me that I’m starting a mountain-climbing season.
If so, it’ll be harder than expected, because I will have to separate myself from all the unholy things that I’ve latched onto back on the ground. As I’m now realizing, it requires spiritual strength and discernment to separate oneself and step up alone – it’s actually pretty disconcerting. And then even when you reach the top and your identity is revealed, you still have to accept and live out this new identity.
But I know to climb mountains with God is a blessing. I already feel like I’m in a season of His revelation. He has already give me an outpouring of courage, strength and song, and maybe He’s in the process of revealing to me my identity.
Above all, I’m trying to steadfastly keep my eyes on Him – so that I remember that He’s the one guiding me, that my identity is in Him not anything I could do, and that I could never survive this climb on my own.