I got to the top and I felt my left knee do that thing where it doesn't want to bend any more.... where it doesn't want to play ball and work in the way it normally does. As we put our coats on as the clouds descended on the top I wondered whether it was going to last on the way down.... and it didn't. The descent was painful, mostly sidewards and accompanied at every step with loud shouts of 'ow' as my knee complained. I even got strange looks from the woman who had stopped near the bottom as her companions went up who said to me 'that's why I haven't gone any further'.
I'm glad I did go further. I am glad I did get to the top.... but the descent made me question whether it was worth it. With hindsight it is and next year I am going to try and train my knees up to deal with mountain climbing, perhaps buy myself a couple of sticks and maybe try a different mountain.
When you are at the top of the mountain it is awesome. You can see for miles. You feel like you've achieved something. But, at some point you need to get down as you wouldn't be able to survive up there for a very long time despite the awesome views.
I'm now over half way through my ministerial training (can you believe it?) and it hit me a few months ago that the feeling of elation and excitement at doing what I am meant to be doing had gone away... that I was beginning to have to face the gritty reality of what this life can be like. I needed to begin to slowly descend that mountain where everything was awesome (I am sure I annoyed everyone by telling them how brilliant it was) to a place of balance where I can survive long term.
The trouble is, on that descent, the knee problem sets in. It starts with a niggle, a moment of oh this could be difficult and then at times makes you cry out in pain. As you hit the reality of life in the descent there are times of blessing but there are also times of wrestling where you ask 'can I still do this?'.
When you read testimonies of people in different forms of church leadership and ministry, one that stays at the summit of the mountain sounds glorious, but is it truthful? I've read honest accounts of real wrestling with God from people like Pete Grieg (God on Mute is a brilliant book) and heard stories of and seen people who behind the public face struggle with stress and depression.
The reality is fantastically awesome on the mountain top (which is why I want to climb another one) but is painfully difficult when you are walking sidewards down a seemingly endless path of rocks.
I was reminded yesterday of the poem 'If' by Rudyard Kipling where it talks about how if you can keep everything together when everyone else is not that that is the thing to aim for. It talks of being strong in adversity, of not being overcome by weakness. As I thought about it, I couldn't help but question that Kipling got it wrong. I think that a lot of people might see the role of the minister as being that person who holds it together - and perhaps there are times when that is true and only right. But....
2 Corinthians 2:19 says: "My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak"
Being strong isn't all it's cracked up to be. Admitting you need God is. When we are at our weakest then God's power is at it's greatest. At the moment I can't expand on that further, but as I am descending the mountain and embracing the reality of ministry I need to admit that my knees hurt, and I need to remember that God is beside me, knees hurting too.
"For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you. Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13