Climbing and Living

I'm thrilled about a number of things these days.

For instance, I'm thrilled to be investing my time and my gifts in a vocation that anticipates what Messiah will do when he returns.

I'm thrilled to be a small part of some significant ministry work being done by a great team of super-talented yet nonetheless-still-human folk.

And I'm thrilled to be able to provide for my family in the context of the above vocation.  Believe me, it doesn't always work out that way.

Many thanks go to Compassion International for being such a tremendous blessing both to kids around the world and to its employees.

Yes, as they say, "it's all good!".  And looking back, it's been an interesting journey so far - to say the least!

Six years ago I decided to leave the successful technology businesses that my partner and I had created.  I set out on a new adventure: The Goal was to use my full strength and my full faculties - that is, to use my vocation - to help build what a most noteworthy ancient book calls "The Kingdom".

I liken the experience of the last six years to climbing a mountain (I know - that's a big surprise coming from me!).

In fact, during the last week I've climbed two peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation - so the comparison is especially fresh.
This Father's Day I awoke at 3:00 AM, grabbed a quick shower, threw my pack in the car and rushed to The Crags trailhead. 
I was super-stoked to achieve The Goal - to climb Pikes Peak. 
My mind raced from issue to issue (Batteries charged - check!  Weather forecast - good!  Protein AND carbs in the pack - got it!).  All systems GO!
For me, this is the way all adventures start - with an overwhelming sense of anticipation mixed with mild apprehension at the Unknown, and all of it carried along by a strong desire for forward momentum to complete the mission.

And this, on a much larger scale, is exactly how my six-year life-mission began.

I examined my options, I prepared my family, I did my best to plan for contingencies and then - with great anticipation and apprehension alike - off we went!
The first few miles up Pikes Peak were exhilarating.  The cool, crisp mountain air - still a novelty to me - made me feel stronger just to inhale it. 
Going up felt easy, and I recall thoughts of thanksgiving just to have the opportunity to be there - to exercise my will in a way that some would understand and that many others would not.
And then - just as I topped a huge monolith gaining almost a thousand feet of elevation - I realized I'd taken a wrong turn.  The specter of failure cast its ugly shadow over what began in a glorious charge.
You know, I'd like to report that over the last six years I performed with perfect prognostication and consummate clairvoyance.  I'd love to say that I was able to predict with precision the outcome of my predilections.

But alas, my life-journey has included a few "wrong turns".  Whatever the case, whatever the cause and whomever defaulted - you know what I'm talking about.

Sometimes promises don't pan out, sometimes relationships run ragged and sometimes hopes are held hostage.  The fact is - you, me and those we choose to partner with, even on our best days, are still human, still flawed and still incapable of a "God's Eye" view.

All of the above means that wranglings and wrong turns and deviations and diversions will inevitably be tracked over the terrain of a life lived towards a Goal.

And lest I leave the impression that I personally handle these Detours with a big ol' smile on my face - let me admit that the same uncertainties, doubts and fears of failure accompany me as they do you!
I backtracked down the mile or so I'd climbed - losing that precious elevation, that precious energy and that oh-so-precious psyche that are so central to achieving goals in the mountains.
I was failing.
Not surprisingly, on my right the chattering birds paid no attention to my shortcomings and on my left the self-absorbed creek uttered no consolation for my loss as I wandered dejectedly back down the Walk of Shame.
Isn't it interesting how quickly our enthusiasm wanes when we hit a Detour?  I liken it to eating a breakfast of delicious Cocoa Krispies.  Ohhh, the taste and the texture - I could almost take them intravenously!

But my, how rapidly that sugar-high turns into dragging lack and loss!  And so it is with Detours.

One of the more surreal aspects of a Detour is the way some folks around us continue on their own paths like those birds and that creek - unaffected by our frustration and unconcerned for our pain.

This common human reaction (an artifact, I believe, of the quite-reasonable instinct for survival) causes us to feel even more isolated - as if we're the only ones that have ever hit a Detour.

Of course the truth is, as we've already seen, everyone that lives life on-purpose hits Detours.  As Bruce Hornsby used to sing it, "That's just the way it is...".
As in mild sadness I passed an antediluvian weakness in the massive wall to my left, I noticed an obscure trail leading up, up, up - up what appeared to be a thousand feet of aspen-choked near-verticality. 
Hmmm.  "Might that thing lead somewhere interesting?", I wondered, "somewhere towards . . . the . . . uhh . . . ummm."
Remarkable about the human will are the smoldering embers of resilience that lie just beneath those lifeless coals drowned by Detour's downpour.
"Just give that line a try." said a faint whisper in my ear, "Who knows where it will lead, and honestly, who cares?"
The amplitude increased, "You'll never know 'till you try and you'll certainly learn something.  All right - get up there!" 
That nasty goat-path was hard climbing indeed, but the lure of learning something new and the joy of pure self-determination won out over laziness and self-pity. 
I dragged my sorry patoot up past the banana-shaped monolith, up through the dense pine forest, and ultimately up to the magical place known as treeline - where Planet Earth transforms into a harsh, yet still strangely inviting moonscape.
As the blasting wind on that 60 degree rubble slope threatened to blow me back to the Midwest, as my head spun from exertion at altitude and as I finally topped out on the ancient scree cone, my bleary eyes saw again my old friend - The Goal.       
As Pikes Peak finally came into view I was filled with renewed vision, vigor and commitment.

And so it was that I ultimately made it to the top of the mountain and back down this Father's Day - a 16 mile round trip filled with big ups and big downs, with exasperation and with excitement, with delight and with Detours.

My hope today is for you to be encouraged - for a life lived well, a life lived on purpose, is just like that. 

As for me, I'm a lot farther along toward The Goal than I was six years ago.  Oh, there's sure to be a "sucker buttress" somewhere ahead and I'll bet there's a Detour or two yet to come.  But the good news is - the Summit's still in view.

Heaven help us to see it!

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