I (John) was recently asked about my time on Kilimanjaro, and if I had any fresh perspectives during my time on the mountain. I replied, “breathtaking… literally!” Lacking oxygen, I spent much of my mental energy near the top just trying to keep one foot moving in front of the other with a breathless prayer: Give me strength, repeated like scratched vinyl.
It was breathtaking in a beautiful sense as well and had there been no other thoughts, the time was wonderfully spent just enjoying the beauty of the mountain—and the thought that God is so cool.
But there was one thought that kept ruminating in my mind. Maintain perspective! I kept thinking of Caleb and the first round of spies who went into the Promised Land to see if they should go in. Ten of the spies retreated with a devastating report that the land was fierce, devouring its inhabitants, and that the Israelite spies appeared like grasshoppers to the giants of the land. Grasshoppers in a devouring land seemed quite relevant to the mountain. But even in life I could sort of imagine what it might have felt like to choke on the fear: to have felt like grasshoppers.
Caleb offers another perspective—that jettisons risk-free days in favor of fearsome trials that might offer the hope of something better, something promising.
This thought was not really about my time on the mountain, but in my pursuit of the Lord. (Perhaps the mountain was a mini practice session.) I want to grow in courage like Caleb who risks it for the pursuit something better; who seeks after truth, after relationships, after the Lord even when such seeking risks unraveled theology, unanswered questions, rejected relations, failed efforts, or worse.
I fear my distaste for suffering is so severe I may be more akin to the other ten than to Caleb; even they had the courage to investigate the land. I feel a necessity to renew my conviction to go forward with such sincere pursuit that I am willing to walk headlong into uncertainties because of the prospects of something better—and with the comfort of the joy of experiencing God go with me, fumbling mistakes, stumbling steps and all.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. --Matthew 16:25