Did you ever think about the path that led Jesus, Peter, James, and John to the mountaintop to meet Moses and Elijah that day so long ago? Perhaps it was a slow, gentle, meandering path, but mountaintops seldom have gentle pathway leading all the way to their peaks.
Sure, mountains may have gentle pathways at their base, and many people linger there contemplating the assent. Casual strollers may walk the base enjoying a beautiful day, families may picnic by the mountain’s flowing streams, and those in love may stroll hand in hand resting at lower vistas to gaze upon the beauty of creation as though it were made just for them.
Those wanting more of a challenge may push through the lower pathways and find hiking trails marking trees by some adventurer long ago. Perhaps a few will even discover their own trails where few have gone before, scouting a new path to the next resting spot.
But few will make it to the top.
And when we are climbing our own mountains and stumble and fall or want to give up, we often think our particular mountain is too high, too steep, too great of a challenge. We think our mountain has unfair obstacles others aren’t faced with. We look at the mountains others have conquered, but we often mistake the challenges they met along the way. The padding of time and distance make the mountains of others seem less rugged, less demanding, less frightening than our own.
We don’t spend every second on their mountain. After all, it is their mountain, not ours. We look over at their mountain from our own place on our own hill and see rounded tops and tree covered mounds. Distant mountains look almost soft and cushiony from a distance.
But to the one on the mountain, the one struggling to make that climb, every cliff and boulder and rock faced can seem so monstrous that it blocks the view of what lies ahead, and sometimes we would choose to stay where we are rather than face the unknown.
Those same trees that seem so soft and cushiony from a distance only serve to block out the sun and camouflage scary things to the one beneath their branches. Those same trees which provide us so much comfort and shade from the heat of the day almost always make the night dark and cold for someone on the mountain.
When we are on our mountain, under the tree line, facing an uphill battle with a peak that is unseen from our vantage point, it becomes easy to judge our mountain as more difficult than that of another. It becomes easy to think our life has obstacles others wouldn’t have to overcome. It becomes easy to feel victimized. It becomes easy to forget that other people have their own mountains and other mountains have their own challenges.
You were given your mountain for a particular reason. Do not shirk the climb. Do not envy another her mountain, and do not think that just because you have read about or heard about or spent time on another mountain, that you understand it’s assent
Or that you can imagine the view from its peak.
You were given your mountain, and no one but God knows it like you do. The climb was designed for you. The lessons learned along the way, the companions you meet as you walk the trail, and especially the view from the top were all designed for you and no one else.
Peter, James, and John witnessed an amazing event on the mountaintop, but they didn’t know that when they began the climb. They didn’t know that when the path got difficult. They didn’t know that when the hot sun beat down on them or when they stumbled and fell.
But they found the difficulty of the climb wasn’t even worth mentioning when they got to the top.
How is your unique mountain shaping you? How is it preparing you to experience the summit? Do you really think you will regret the climb if you keep going, if you make it to the top which you will do as Peter, James, and John did, with Jesus by your side? If you join the Lord in Heaven, will you really wish you had been given your neighbor’s mountain?
Please join me for part two of my discussion of Sunday’s Gospel reading Mark Chapter 9, The Transfiguration, tomorrow.