To climb a mountain – either physical or metaphorical – is exhilarating. To overcome the challenge of reaching the pinnacle at anything requires considerable effort, focus, and often teamwork.
We do well to celebrate such achievements. But there is invariably a challenging journey to get there, and a journey down the mountain to follow.
Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration to encounter the disbelief of his followers (Mark 9); Elijah’s experience after defeating the prophets of Baal led him into a depressive episode (1 Kings 19); the exuberance accompanying Palm Sunday evaporated as the week led Jesus to the cross… each episode reminds us that learning to live in the valleys is as important (perhaps more so) than the mountaintop experience itself.
It is here that we recognise our need for community; our dependence on God, and the knowledge that this too shall pass.
As the seasonal change of autumn takes place around us, the natural signs are of creation going into decline.
Deciduous trees are shedding their leaves; the mornings are colder; the days are shorter. These are the inevitable post-summer experiences, but also preparation for the next stage of flourishing.
They are, in their own way, signs of renewal. And if we pause long enough, we can see their innate beauty, along with aspects of the creation which are unable to bear the heat of summer.
When we consider those who share community with us, whether it be at work, in our neighbourhood, or any club we are part of, we will find people in different seasons of life’s experience.
Let us neither envy those on the mountain top, nor pity those in the valleys, for we need the perspective of both, for God’s presence — life itself — can be discovered, and shared, in all aspects of the journey.
The Reverend Dr Gary Heard is a Baptist minister.