Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Many years ago, mountains were insurmountable obstacles. Traveling through them was a risky business at best, taking months during the summer season, and impossible during the winter. The catastrophe faced by the Donner party, trapped high in the Sierra Nevada, and eventually forced into cannibalism, serves as a gruesome memory of just how perilous high-altitude journeys could be.

Now, with the advent of planes, trains, and automobiles, mountains are easily sidestepped, avoided, or traveled through. The true semantic associations with scaling mountains have been lost, lingering on only in the realm of mountaineering, in which the true dangers and joys of climbing on foot have been preserved. Many mountaineers equate reaching the summit to a profound religious experience. British climber and cave explorer Robert Parker elevated climbing to the realm of theology, declaring:
"In a sense everything that is exists to climb. All evolution is a climbing towards a higher form. Climbing for life as it reaches towards the consciousness, towards the spirit. We have always honored the high places because we sense them to be the homes of gods. In the mountains there is the promise of... something unexplainable. A higher place of awareness, a spirit that soars. So we climb... and in climbing there is more than a metaphor; there is a means of discovery."
It's no wonder that we use the word "mountain" to describe our most challenging emotional problems. Lately, I've been facing a couple of metaphorical mountains. Who isn't? Looking around this campus, absorbing the snippets of the overheard conversations of students and faculty, one quickly realizes that we are living within an emotional mountain range.

How, beautiful, then are Jesus' words: "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20). With a tiny amount of faith, faith in God, faith that we are his beloved children, not only can we climb the mountains looming threateningly before them, we can move them.

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