I’ve climbed a mountain. This is one of those statements that allow you to bask in a certain amount of admirational glow, from those that have never accomplished such a feat, but at the same time causes you to hope that an experienced alpinist is not within earshot. This pride paradox arises from the fact that my mountain wasn’t exactly Everest. There was no snowcap, Sherpa or base camp, but nonetheless there was a mountain, and I climbed it.
I like to think of myself as an outdoorsman, but my experience is limited to the prairies of Illinois. This area isn’t quite known for its vertical topography, so when I was presented with the opportunity to scale the lofty 3,700 feet of Blue Mountain (located in the beautiful Adirondack National Park), I jumped at the chance. For the most part, my companions had made this trek numerous times. The disparate level of our familiarity, with the local geography, was best represented by our preparations. While I mounted the trailhead fully equipped with hiking boots, layered clothing, orienteering tools and an internal frame backpack filled with enough water, food and extra clothing to make Bear Grylls shake his head in disapproval, my fellow hikers instead looked as though they were going for a stroll in the park. Their attire consisted mostly of shorts, t-shirts, running shoes, and light packs with just the bare essentials. It was readily apparent that I had over-prepared for our two-hour ascent to the summit.
At this point, I would like to elucidate a few details: 1) Weighing in at 245 pounds, I am not a small man. 2) The pack I was wearing added about 30 extra pounds. 3) This climb was really, really steep. 4) Most of the other people in our group regularly participate in athletic competitions such as marathons, triathlons, and other such nonsense. I can’t be sure, but I believe that these facts may explain why I quickly found myself alone on the trail.
With no one to talk to, I had plenty of time to contemplate that singular force known as gravity. Being a chemist for 16 years, my mind tends to see things in scientific terms. So it was that I found myself transported from the side of that peak to a long forgotten physics class. From the attic of my cluttered brain, I pulled out the formula F=gm. Translated from math-ese this equation expresses that the force of gravity acting upon on object is equal to its mass multiplied by the gravitational constant. In other words, the bigger you are, the greater the force of gravity acting on you and the higher the number on the bathroom scale. The gravitational constant is, well, constant so the only way you can change the number on the scale is to reduce your mass. You can never fully escape gravity, but you can lessen its impact.
Between gasps for oxygen, I started to pray. It was then that I felt God direct my mind to Hebrews 12:1, which states, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” This well-tread passage of Scripture took on a new meaning as I struggled up the steep rock face. For obvious reasons, my mind focused in on the phrase “let us lay aside every weight”, but more subtle thoughts quickly filled my brain. That day God began to remind me of some weights that I had laid aside during my walk with Him.
Entering adulthood is a complex time. While we are reaching for greater things, we are simultaneously leaving behind adolescence. As Christians, we focus a lot of our energy on avoiding sin. We spend time in prayer, strategize to overcome temptations and practice holiness all in the quest of remaining unspotted by the world, but what about the weights that easily beset us? Adolescence can encumber even the best of us with unwarranted burdens that, if held onto, can derail us from God’s plan. How do we reduce our spiritual mass?
To understand how to shed spiritual pounds, we must first understand how these things came to be in the first place. These weights aren’t necessarily the result of a sin you, or anyone else, committed. It could be the stigma of a broken home, the unkind words of a classmate, the unwelcome touch of an adult or even the shame of a long forgiven mistake. Whatever it is, it has a mass, and even though this mass can’t be measured by scientific equipment, it’s still there. You carry it daily, and it pulls you down. You know it’s not your fault, but you still can’t shed it from your soul.
In some cases, these weights are just as spiritually deadly as sin. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus expressed sympathy for those that are encumbered by heavy weights because He understands that these weights grind you down until you just can’t go on. The unresolved issues of childhood can frustrate us to the point that we feel that even God can’t help us, and we seek our happiness from other sources. The sad reality is that as long as we carry this extra mass, we will never find the freedom that we crave.
Even if the burdens you carry don’t cause you to abandon your walk with God, they will always limit how high you can climb in your relationship with Jesus. As the trail grew steeper, I knew I needed to let some things go. Hopefully, the cache of water and snacks that I removed from my pack and left on the side of the trail blessed some fortunate hikers. To achieve your potential in God’s kingdom, it is vital that you recognize the things that you can do without. Some wrongs can never be righted. You’re never going to be able to go back in time and prove to your sixteen-year-old self that you belong at the cool kid lunch table, so just make like Elsa and let it go. Otherwise, you’ll just keep spinning your wheels and never get to where God wants you to be.
Here’s the thing about spiritual physics, the gravity of this world is constant; it’s always going to pull you down. The only way to mitigate the inevitability of this fact is to lighten your load. When you replace your burden with God’s, the force acting against you decreases. You first must recognize you can’t change the past, but through the blood of Jesus you can have a better future. Then ask God to heal you, and to trade His easy yoke for your heavy burden. Finally, be diligent that you don’t pick the offending weights up again.
As I crested the summit of Blue Mountain and joined my much fitter party, I was elated at my achievement. With arms raised, I triumphantly walked into the clearing that marked the end of the climb. So what if moments later a toddler, accompanied by her father, made their grand entrance to the summit? I’ve climbed a mountain.
About the Author
Joel Gray – Husband of Erin. Father of Noah and Zuri. Pastor of Marion First. Follower of Jesus.