Thursday, 29 September 2011

Halfway to the peak

Evening, Lord.

I'm thinking about something that A W Tozer said. I'm reading bits and pieces of what he wrote as one of the daily devotional readings that I use and I must read more because he seems to talk a lot of sense. Not always sense that fills me full of good cheer, but sense nonetheless.  Stuff that needs thinking about. 

Like this:

"The word 'mediocre' comes from two Latin words and literally means 'halfway to the peak'.  This makes it an apt description of the progress of many Christians. They are halfway up the peak. They are not halfway to heaven but halfway to where they ought to be, halfway between the valley and the peak...  

AW Tozer: Mornings with Tozer 

I think I know that feeling. I have been wondering for a while if I'm not wandering round the mountain a bit like the Israelites who set out on a journey that should have taken a couple of weeks and ended up still there forty years later...

Tozer goes on: 

"Many have settled down right there, and the tragedy is that years ago some of you said, 'I am not going to fail God. I am going to push my way up the mountain until I am at the top of the peak, at the highest possible point of experience with God in this mortal life!'"

Ah. I suppose I've been guilty of making wild claims like that. I have said on several occasions that I want to be all that I can be. I want to be all that God wants me to be: I want to take hold of everything he wants to give me, to do all that he has for me to do, to be some use to him. Not to fail God. In terms of mountain climbing, I've set my sights on the summit and said so. To God and to other people. Then...well, just as physically I am no mountain climber but set out grimly with determination and stoicism, it wears off when the going gets tough and I need to sit down and rest my legs. Take in the view. Wait for the pain from aching muscles to wear off. Grumble a lot. 

Ben Nevis. What a day that was. 
This mountain climbing analogy is an uncomfortable one for me. I used to go out with a keen mountain climber and we once went to Scotland where I was dragged in various moods ranging from indulgent and obliging but weary to openly hostile up a series of mountains known as The Monroes (mountains over 3000ft in the Scottish Highlands). I have never climbed a mountain and enjoyed it, and the view from the top (usually bathed in cloud or torrential rain) was never, not once, worth the special sort of agony that I endured to get there. 

But back to the 'I'm not going to fail God!' claim:

"But you have done nothing about it. If anything, you have lost spiritual ground since that day. You are now a halfway Christian! You are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. You are halfway up to the peak, halfway to where you could have been if you had pressed on.

A halfway Christian. Sitting down looking at the view because the going got tough and my legs hurt. That's not a comfy thought. I don't really like to dwell on where I might have been if I'd pressed on, because for me, someone who made a Christian commitment aged 16, burned brightly for a few years, then went a bit dim in the heat and light department for a period of, well, let's say quite a while - perhaps I could have been much higher up on this mountain of mine.

I'm not going to let him down!

(I let him down)

No, I'm really not going to let him down!

(I let him down)

And so on. 

Tozer concludes:

"Do we really think that this halfway Christian life is the best that Christ offers - the best that we can know? In the face of what Christ offers us, how can we settle for so little?"

Lord, I don't want to be lukewarm. I don't want to be halfhearted. I don't want to be mediocre. I do want to push on - or at least my spirit does; but in so many ways I'm weak. I so often run out of strength, and will, and determination. Sometimes I start out aiming to please, just as I did with that old boyfriend, but after the gentle slopes turn into steep ones I start to think that it's too hard, too much trouble, too painful and then I want to sit down and get out the picnic. 

I don't want to write cheques that I can't cash. With your help I can cash them, because you've said that you'll walk alongside me and I'm hoping that means that you'll tow me a bit now and again, or at least keep talking to me as I'm struggling. Pull me up. On my own it seems likely that I'll let you down again no matter how insistent my protestations of sincerity this time...I can only do it with you. 

Mt Everest. Highest mountain on earth.
Will the view be better than this?  Really?

So show me this bloody mountain then. Ah. I'm standing on it.

How far up am I? Only there? Really?! But I've been plodding for ages. And my legs ache.

How much more to go? 

I can't even see the top from here. 

Are you promising me a decent view from the top? Really? Not shrouded in damp and mist? 

Like nothing I've ever seen, you tell me. 


So this time it will be worth it? 

I'm getting up. I'm trying to get the rucksack back on. I've put a plaster on my blister. 

I'm going to go a bit further because you've said you'll go with me. You know the way. I can't see past the next big rock.

And you've said you'll carry the rucksack if it really gets too heavy. 

I want to get to the top. You'll know what an achievement that'll be for grumbly, unfit old me.

Let's go then. 

After you. 

I'm following.

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