Facing the Greatest Climb of our Lives

March 17, 2019

Jesus invites us to lace up our climbing boots and hike the mountain of transfiguration with Him. He longs to reveal His true self to us.  Just as He did for Peter, James and John, He invites us personally to the place where He can reveal His true self to us.

The other day in the bitter cold, I joined a new subculture, one I never thought I would ever join.  In order to get some exercise I went to the mall and did some mall walking.  While there, I observed mall walkers to be an interesting group.  In my time walking the perimeter of the mall, I entered into the experiences of this group of which I was unsure. I wasn’t ready to say I was a part of them. I apologize for my attitude and I don’t mean any disrespect.  By the time my exercise was finished, it became evident there was a lot God wanted me to deal with on my first mall walk.  In my mind I identify myself as runner and when I run, it is always outside.  In the past, a vision of senior citizens way older than me walking in their new running shoes around the mall wasn’t an appealing type of exercise to me. What I observed and absorbed on my first mall walk led me on a difficult climb into the depths of my own pride and ego.   First of all, I realized most walkers walk in one direction.  Some round the corners of the mall, others do not.  Some walk towards every opening to the parking lot, some do not.  Attire is unique.  Some carry their jackets, and others put them in a backpack.  Some wear a shirt from a recent 5K, and others wear blue jeans and a golf shirt.  As for me, since I really did not want anyone to know I was doing this, I wore jeans and a light jacket so it might look as if I was shopping.

As I made my trek, I began to do some self-reflection.  How bad am I?  It became apparent rather quickly that I had judged this subculture of mall walkers without ever knowing their stories, without ever realizing what it might have taken for many of them to even be able to walk.  Some might be doing this for rehabilitation after surgery.  Shame on me!  I also observed a whole other subculture present in the mall—those who sit on the benches.  My mind wandered as to why these people were on their electronics when instead they could be up and moving around.  I began to catch myself in all the judging I was doing.  As I clipped along, I saw some walkers with ear buds, and some looking at their electronics while bumping into others.  I noticed those, who like myself, were trying not to be noticed.  But even after just a few times around the mall, we all know who is who.  Some bring water bottles, and others carry a bag as to look like they bought something.  Each of us were on our own journeys doing the same thing for whatever reason that inspired us.

While I continued to delve into my walking, I began to realize, for Jesus to reveal Himself, His true self to me, I have to climb deeply into myself where my sense of who I am is revealed and I am able to see how broken and pitiful it is.  The greatest climb is to ascend my pride.  My self-importance of thinking I am a runner above others is a nasty and steep cliff.  Thinking I sit on a standard greater than others because I ran so many marathons in the past is a mountain of self-righteousness, one that is far away from our humble Savior.  The more I walked, the more the climb into the depths of my true sense of self took drastic spills.  Distraction became my coping mechanism.

While trying to avoid an uncomfortable reflection on my sinful pride, I Iearned a great deal.  First, there are a lot of places that pump smells into the doorways of their stores.  Some grind beans loudly to try and grab the attention of potential customers.  The fragrances of candy and popcorn can beckon from the other side of the mall.  There was an exercise gym at this mall with windows facing outward.  I can remember rounding the bend and saying to myself, “They paid for what I am doing for free.”  While I chuckled about my insight, once again I was reminded of how quickly I make assumptions about others or compare myself to others.  I apologize to all mall walkers of the past, present and of the future.  Someday I hope for acceptance into the mall walking group as I work on developing humility within myself.

When Jesus went up the mountain and revealed His true self, the disciples were overcome first by sleep.  The journey was exhausting.  Once they were fully awake they could see the true Christ and hear the voice of the Father.  First an exhaustive journey into the self to climb the mountain of transfiguration is required.  We must use all of our courage and strength to reveal our true self so we may see the true self of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  When it all comes down to it, we are all pitiful sinners and sin creeps into our lives in all different ways.  When we become exhausted about that, it is then when we are able to embrace the most perfect One, the sinless One, the holy Son of God.  I long for those moments when He shows Himself and reveals His true self.  For me, these moments happen most profoundly when I am in the depths of recognizing my sin.

The greatest climb of our lives is to scale the mountain of our self-perception, arrogance and pride.  It is not a journey upward, but one that takes us downward into the depths of our soul.  Jesus invites us to lace up our boots and get going.  He longs to reveal His true self to us.  One last note—when I went to the mall, I was disappointed to learn that the place called “True Religion” is not actually a chapel, but instead just a place where jeans are sold.

Happy climbing; it is worth it.

Reverend  John J. Ouper