Where to from here?

Friday, May 23, 2008

The "mountain top" ministry experience happens so infrequently in life that when we do reach that summit of intense spiritual fervor we want so badly to remain there for as long as possible. Inevitably we will descend not by our own choosing but because reimmersion into our normal routines and relationships is where life is largely lived. Mountain tops aren't crowded for that reason. In life we spend most of our time at the base of the mountain looking skyward, wondering when and how we'll ascend once again. The greater question to me, having experienced the summit a few times, is whether there's actually a way to allow that opportunity to continue to transform my life after the inevitable descent occurs?

The mountain top experience doesn't just happen. By taking advantage of a ministry opportunity we begin taking a step or series of steps in the direction of the summit. However, similarly to an actually climbing experience we realize only upon reaching the summit that we in fact are there. Why? Our focus is the journey and what is happening around us and how we are interacting with all engages us along the way. When we find ourselves standing atop the mountain, this feat is met with a myriad of emotions. We can see where we started and the winding road that led us to where we now stand. So often we're overwhelmed by the grace of God and that He is good beyond description. Our eyes are open to view the landscape of our surroundings with a clarity and expression of joy that is matchless. Often we find that we are not alone here but that we have found such blessing through the strength of a community of climbers that have supported you, even each other, from the beginning.

One of the first emotions I experience when the dreaded descent occurs is bewilderment. What I do with what I've just seen and experienced? I want to go back and even hope to stay. Strangely God seems to rarely return us to that exact vista. I think the reason is that God is most concerned with our journey rather than previous destinations. For some our journey means returning, not to relive but to contribute to the building of the Kingdom. Unfortunately I think many times our passion stalls upon the final descent. We never process our bewilderment and reimmersion. We return to the roles and responsibilities we maintained before our mountain top experience, never becoming anything different than what we always were.

The question remains, how do we handle the descent any differently? I believe it begins with how we process the summit experience. When our praise of God enhances our confidence in Him a transformation begins. Instead of relegating the wonder of your experience to your senses, allow it to begin filtering through your mind, your heart and your soul. Allow what you see, feel, even taste and touch to evaluate your heart condition, your self-identity, your perspective of others, and certainly the strength of your faith in God. Start asking the hard questions on top of the mountain rather than waiting for those hard questions to find you upon your descent. Let the majesty of God in those moments infuse in you a perseverance that is unquenchable.

Lastly, as you descend and find yourself back in the regularities of life pre-mountain, be intent on obeying God in all things and in all areas of your life. Begin to recognize, own, and eradicate pride and selfishness from your life and your relationships. What is simply awesome about this process is that you will notice the presence of the Holy Spirit. In fact, you may find yourself so incredibly full of praise at what is happening in your life that you may be shocked that you are in fact not back on the mountain but seeing God right now with the sort of clarity you did on that summit. When you start having those same sorts of feelings while doing the mundane things of life as you did on the mountain top you'll be transformed and become a catalyst for life change in others. You will think things after the mind of God. Your heart will feel things after the heart of God. You will see others the way He does. And you will start behaving and making decisions in the will of God.

No matter what joys and tragedies befall you and those around you, remain obedient and surrender all to Jesus. In utter humility you will begin to become a guide for others as they struggle through the journey of their own mountains.