Whole-hearted love of God requires discipline and spiritual exercise
Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the Himalayan system, located near the common border of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China. Everest, at 29,032 feet, has drawn climbers from every nation. Even the blind have risked their lives to climb it. Sir Edmund Hillary famously did so on May 23, 1953. A special search team found an exposed body affixed with his name tag on May 1, 1999.
Between 1921 and 2006, some 14,000 people climbed to that misty summit in the Korakoram Range. It proved to be a fatal attraction to 280 people. Of that number, 94 died above the Death Zone at 26,000 feet. Medical studies show they died from the many consequences of cerebral or pulmonary edema, which causes dizziness, fatigue, imbalance, and poor judgment. Experienced Sherpa guides also die, oftentimes trying to save those incapacitated by the frigid elements. Nowadays, snow-melting climate change exposes mummified bodies, emphasizing the danger of the ascent.
Grueling preparation for the exhausting climb requires months of training and psychological focus. Techniques and standard procedures for the packing and proper use of equipment must become second nature. Food bars, water, and clothing get stuffed into a 55-pound backpack. An insulated tent, rope, pikes, ice axe, oxygen tank, first aid kit, sunscreen, sunglasses, flashlight, cell phone, and batteries are included, every item essential for surviving the expedition. Daily training with increasing backpack weight builds strength, stamina, and acclimation. Lack of oxygen at high altitudes will fatigue muscles, and one false step could mean disaster. After all that preparation, climbing six miles up takes another six to 10 weeks, usually in the spring or summer.
Climbers spend months away from family, friends, and career. Wills get written and notarized. Iffy goodbyes are tendered to loved ones. Turning back is not acceptable. Adventurers are willing to risk everything to achieve glory and return to share their personal experience of the highest summit in the world.
Like mountain climbers, we Christians are called to sacrifice much for an inward ascent of the summit of life. We are all born with the right to pursue happiness but without surety of attaining it. Our bodily senses distract from spiritual fulfillment. We are fooled into ignoring God’s call, probably because we suspect it’s hard work. Worldly demands require far less sacrifice and discipline. After much disappointment we learn to respond to God. He requires all the love and strength of body, mind, and spirit that we can muster.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30)
Whole-hearted love of God may require goodbyes tendered to loved ones, as warriors going into battle. Turning back is out of the question. Austere discipline and spiritual exercises will become routine. Himalayan mountaineers and other athletes would marvel at the similar effort it takes to win the summit and laurel-leafed crown of eternal life.
“Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25)
It helps to have friends with the same spiritual goal, as a team of mountain climbers roped together in their ascent. No discussions, readings, or videos of saintly lives can substitute for direct personal experience of God Almighty.
The saints risked their very lives to attain mystical union with Christ. Beatific visions put to rest forever their lingering doubts, vain pursuits, and illusory goals. Conquering Mt. Everest or gaining the whole world can never equal that blessed state of union with God, Who satisfies every human desire with lasting happiness and peace that defies description.
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