Posts Tagged ‘the incline’

Why?

Posted: January 21, 2013 in Life
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incline

“Why?”

The question slipped passed the old man’s lips. Effortlessly.  Like water poured out of a glass, and I was drinking.

I turned and looked up at the mountain.  The old man smiled at me as he patted me on the shoulder, and began his trek up the monumental staircase looming before us. I would soon be joining him.

But not now, not yet.  At this moment, I was pondering – mulling over; thinking about the simple question uttered by the grey haired man with black knit cap and comforting smile.

It’s amazing how at just the right moment, one word…one question…can cause us to pause and consider. Here I was…standing at the foot of a one-mile staircase up a trail, known as the “Incline”, and all I could think about was… WHY?

I had been here before, the Incline that is.  The Incline is a daunting physical challenge made up of old railroad ties from an abandoned Cog Rail from days gone by. It is located near the base of Pike’s Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado.  Every day, hundreds of locals as well as out of state visitors make the trek to the top. I have been up this challenging mile of hiking glory multiple times, but on this day, I was wondering WHY?

The old man had asked me a simple question. A question that caused me to stare up at the mountain before me and begin to wonder, “why was I doing what I was about to do?”

I mean, people hike the Incline for many reasons.  Some simply do it for the exercise; others for the view at the top. Many do it for the bragging rights that accompany such an accomplishment. Others hike it, simply because it is there.  Moreover, there are those who go up with friends and enjoy the camaraderie of conquering the summit together.

However, as I stared at the mountain before me, the “why” I was pondering was not about the “Incline” or “getting to the top”.  No, I was truly asking ‘Why?”… About everything!

The simple “Why?” asked by a well-meaning old man, released a metaphorical mountain of “Whys?” that had been building in my heart for quite some time. Moreover, most of the “whys?” now swirling around my soul were centered around my own struggles with Faith.  A  Faith in a God I said I loved, adored, and would do anything for.

And at the root of all the questions was this…”Why was I climbing the mountain?”

Not the literal mountain in front of me, but the symbolic mountain of life we each face every day of our lives.  Why am I taking the next step? And of course, “why?” leads to “where?” which leads to “how?” and “when?”

I know, I know… this little story is getting a bit too philosophical.  In fact, if you are reading this early in the morning, please stop and pour yourself a cup of coffee!  I have always found this to enhance the experience, no matter where you are at on your journey.

And now, hopefully with coffee in hand, let me share with you where the simple “why” asked on the side of a mountain led me.

I have found that mountains of “whys” especially concerning our Faith, can lead to several places:

One… it can lead to a quagmire of confusion that keeps us from doing anything.  In other words, the journey just does not seem worth it and we simply stop climbing.

Two… it can lead us to a place of self-producing solutions, answers, and excuses.  This is where we climb, but we are always uncertain about our next steps.  We create reasons for going forward that sound good, but do not resonate in the depths of our being. Excuses for going forward can never replace conviction and purpose.

Three…it can lead us to a place of judgment and criticism. When we are unsure of “why” we are taking our next step, we become critical and suspicious of others who are attempting to climb the mountain. Lack of purpose and conviction in our own journey, creates suspicion in the motives of others. 

Four…it can lead us back to simple Faith.

One of the most powerful verses I find in Scripture is this:

Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The mountain of “whys” that so often swirl around my heart and mind seems to melt away in the wake of an ocean of simple truth.  Love God, love others, love yourself.  Seems too simple.  I mean, isn’t the journey supposed to be more complex?

And yet, on the day the kind, grey-haired old man asked me “why?”, I finished my climb up the Incline.  For his question had led me back to the secret of completing the Incline: Keep it simple.

 Focus on one step at a time;

Encourage others who are also climbing;

Remember, the view at the top is worth every step.

Our journey of Faith that we travel each and every day is not much different.  Keep it simple.

Love God.  When we do that, then we can focus on the step in front of us instead of being overwhelmed by the mountains we may face. When we love God, our hearts open up and allow Him to remind us of how much He loves us.

 Love others.  When we love God, loving others becomes very natural.  Instead of being critical and judgmental, we become encouraging to others.  We know how difficult life can be, and we want to support people in their journey.

 Love yourself.  Difficult task for many.  But when we understand that we were made in the image of God with the purpose of having a relationship with Him, it becomes difficult not to love ourselves.  This is not arrogance; rather this is acceptance of our creator’s simple plan for our existence.  He made us for relationship with Him (and others).  Everyone, when honest, has things they don’t like about themselves… to tall, to short, to fat, to skinny, abrasive personality, to loud, to quiet.  These are all attributes of our unique humanity.  However, God loves us!  He made us with purpose and our distinct traits are all part of His design. Don’t let anyone or even yourself undermine the beauty that God has created in each individual.

Well, that’s my story of asking, “Why?”.  Brought on by a man I may never see again.  However, if I do see him hiking up the mountain once more, I will make sure I say, “Thank you!” as I smile and simply enjoy the journey once again. Because of all of the “whys” I could give for climbing, the simple joy of the journey, no matter how difficult it may be, is the best “why” I have found.

I am thankful to God for using a little old man on the side of a mountain to remind me once again of the simple power of truth.  Love God, love others, love yourself.

Keep it simple.

(to be continued)

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