Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro
Or, You Can’t Take It With You
Yesterday in church I sat next to a friend who had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro a few years back. This mountain is not technically hard to ascend, since its slope is not that steep, but the altitude at the upper elevations (the peak is higher than 19,000 feet) makes huge demands upon one’s stamina. As you go up, your body begins to crave oxygen and to lose energy.
Her group started with ten climbers, four guides, and six porters to bring necessary supplies for a five-day trek. Each climber had to carry a pack with personal belongings, however. They had been warned not to try to sprint to the top, since there would be even less time to adjust to the thin air. Indeed, by the time they neared the summit, the party was reduced to one guide, three climbers, and no porters, for some had tried to go too fast and had collapsed.
By this time, my friend was herself almost spent. She could barely put one foot in front of the other. The guide told her she must discard everything except the clothes on her back if she were to reach the goal. She must not be encumbered with any unnecessary weight.
She faced a tough decision – to get rid not only of extra clothes, but also her notebooks, journal, Bible, and other items of great value to her; or to give up her quest and return with her possessions but without having attained a long-held dream.
She chose to shed everything and press on towards the summit. With immense effort, she reached the top, where the view was stunning. More thrilling to her, however, was the sense of accomplishing an “impossible” task.
As she spoke, I knew that God was trying to get my attention. Me friend obviously meant this as a spiritual parable, but how did it apply to me? What priceless treasures do I have to renounce in order to follow Christ? What precious things must I relinquish to gain the best that God would have in store for me? What unnecessary baggage must be left behind? What is weighing me down and hindering progress?
Could it be my past, with all its successes and failures? Do I have the luxury of either complacency or regret, satisfaction or frustration, joy or sadness?
Or is it my present? Possessions? Obligations? Relationships?
Perhaps there is something about my future that I must hand over to God. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart,” wrote Solomon long ago. I am no exception. Hope, ambition, even fear: all these can cloud our vision of God’s mission.
All I know is that “climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro” will require all that I have, or hope to gain; all my energy, strength, and resolve; all my attention and concentration.
But the view from the summit, and the sense of having set aside lesser things in order to gain a greater prize, will be worth the cost.