I am resolved not to haul anyone else up the mountain. Not to carry them, not to drag them, just to go up the mountain myself; baggage free. “What do you mean, you will not carry anyone up the mountain?” asked my pastor. “Let me tell you a parable,” I replied.
When I was young I saw a beautiful mountain in the distance. I could tell by the way it was shaped, where its craggy rocks were and where the purples met the greens, that this was my mountain. This was the mountain I was meant to climb in life. When I was still in the single digits I began to prepare to climb that mountain. My parents chose the proper instructors. I trained diligently. I received accolades for my progress and criticism to address my weaknesses. By and by I set out on my journey toward the base of the mountain. When I had gone some distance and was becoming stronger and quite adept at orienteering, I met a tall stranger wandering in a high mountain meadow. I did not know at the time that he was wandering. It was a busy meadow, profuse with wild flowers and the buzzing of bees. Several trails converged, crossed and separated in the meadow. The stranger was pleased to walk with me for awhile. When we came to the final fork in the road, I bid the young man adieu and headed confidently up my chosen path. “Wait a minute!” called the stranger, “I am coming with you!”
“Oh, have you trained for this mountain, too?” I asked in wonderment. “I haven’t had any specific training for this particular path,“ he replied, “I just have a feeling I should go here, and, as you can see, I am genetically fit to climb this mountain. I want to climb this mountain. In this case, desire is the important thing.” We traveled together for quite some time. He was an amiable companion Because he was tall and muscular, he often led and blazed the trail. Once or twice we disagreed when I took the initiative and started off in a different direction. “Come back!” he called, “Let’s go this way!”
“The map I received in my training says this is the right way,” said I.
“What does it matter?” he argued. “You don’t have to stick with the map. Maps are often rigid and tell you only one way. I can make a short cut through this brush in no time and make a new path for us.” The second time disagreement arose he just said, “Well, if you will give me the map, then I can lead us the right direction. I’ll give it back by the time you need it.” A few days later he asked for my compass too, saying, “I’m not sure which way is north.” I showed him how to read the map and use the compass.
At night we sat around the campfire watching the flickering flames. “I want to be standing on top the mountain already, waving at people,” he sighed wistfully. “I wonder if the extra weight of this compass is slowing me down? The map seems to be taking us the long way around.”
I woke early, but waited around for him the next morning. Somehow it just seemed normal that we travel on together. He was slow waking up and when he rose it was with a limp. “My knee is starting to bother me, will you lend me your walking stick?” “Good thing I waited,” I thought, passing it over. I hadn’t used it for the past five miles anyway. He wanted to stop walking early that night and when we turned aside to a grassy place he slumped heavily to the ground and fell fast asleep. Next morning it was hard to wake him. I shook his shoulder. “The sun’s almost up!” I said, “Time to get going.” He groaned. “I just want to camp here for awhile and rest.” “The season will end before we reach the top if we don’t move forward!” I said, turning toward the path. “You can’t just go off and leave me!” he cried. I hoisted him to his feet and half dragged, half carried him slowly up the path. We advanced 200 yards that day and it was rough going because he was twice my size and he kept saying that since I wasn’t strong enough to carry him, I wasn’t really trained to climb that mountain. When it was morning again, I was unsuccessful in arousing him. I knew it was time for me to move on, alone.
That is why I am resolved to climb the mountain myself, without baggage, alone if necessary, and certainly not carrying or dragging someone else.
“But, how can you possibly finish the mountain alone?” asked my pastor. “He has the compass.”
“I will use discernment. I have years of orienteering training in how to tell direction. It is a gift.”
“But, he is a man, he is strong and – he has the map.”
“He used it for toilet paper some days ago.”
“Is that love?”
“Him using my map for toilet paper?”
“No. Is it Love to say you will not stick with him and carry him up the mountain?”
“Yes. It is love to allow anyone with two good legs to hike the mountain for himself without my doing it for him. “
“What about putting others first?”
“By putting others first, do you mean hiking their mountain for them? Carrying them up instead of hiking my own mountain? Or making sure they get to the top of the mountain ahead of me, even if I have to carry, drag or push them?”
“Well, it just sounded harsh and unloving, kind of selfish when you said you would hike your own mountain,” commented the onlooker.
“If I do not love the God of the Universe enough to obey and climb my mountain as instructed, if I neglect my mountain in the name of putting others first and hoisting them up a random mountain; where does that leave me? That is not love. That is merely self-sacrifice. Love, according to C.S. Lewis, is the greater virtue.”
“Yes, but often love demands self-sacrifice,” admonished the chider.
“Who am I to decide, and control through my aiding and abetting, which mountain is someone else’s mountain to climb? I asked.
Can I, a mere mortal, outthink God and decide what is best? Is it putting God in first place to say, ‘Oh, sorry I didn’t get done what you asked me to do, God. Someone else wasn’t able to do their job right, so I went over to help. That’s okay, isn’t it? Because, I did get them up a mountain, even if I didn’t go up the one you placed in my heart.’”
The pastor shook his head, a bit perplexed and deep in thought. The chider raised her eyebrows at the passion in my voice. The onlooker rejoiced to learn what sages from other ages have written. Shakespeare penned, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.“
One greater than Shakespeare said, “Love your neighbor as yourself. “ If I do not love myself enough to climb the mountain God gave me to climb, how will I ever know what it is to truly love my neighbor?