Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"The higher you climb...

“The higher you climb,…The more that you see.
The more that you see,…The less that you know.
The less that you know,…The more that you yearn.
The more that you yearn,…The higher you climb…”

I am still in my Dan Fogelberg phase.  But since we are in Colorado on spring break, my CD of choice has moved from his 1974 Souvenirs to the perfect soundtrack for traveling the canyons and high meadow basins…1985’s High Country Snows.  If you have never driven across the open range of South Park on Hwy 285 with the windows open, the dry mountain air blowing through your hair and this CD cranked so loudly that it resets your heart’s beating…then you’ve missed something truly significant.

The above lyrics perfectly illustrate my spiritual journey of late.  In “The Higher You Climb,” Fogelberg articulates the frustration that I have often heard my mountaineering friends describe as they summit peak after peak, always searching for the next “Everest”.

For me this feeling started almost 20 years ago when I felt like I was going through “the valley of the shadow of death” and wasn’t sure there was any way out.  Day after day I searched for an egress from the valley in a way that didn’t look like I was throwing myself off the edge of a sandstone cliff into a dark abyss.

I remember calling a friend one afternoon, someone I often turned to when the spiritual road seemed most treacherous.  He laughed and said that although I thought that this adventure had become worse than an off-course cruise ship in the Bermuda Triangle, there
would be a day when I’d look back on this leg of the journey with longing. 

That really made me laugh.  I couldn’t imagine
ever longing for pain, suffering, sorrow, relentless depression.  Nope, I was sure that day would never come.  While I knew I had many personal issues to deal with, masochism wasn’t one of them.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

It wasn’t even a year later that my health had stabilized, my relationships were stronger and I was feeling the peace I thought would never come again.  But I was also feeling something new.  I was feeling hunger.  I was hungry for those days when I woke each morning with only one desire…the desire to know God, to hear His voice, to feel His touch. 

My friend had been right.  I was missing my “wilderness days”…days when I thought the valley of the shadow of death had been my Cancun spring break gone bad.  I was hungry for the hunger.  I was thirsty for the thirst. Not the sorrow, sadness, pain, and depression...those had faded. I loved the longing.

One morning while praying for direction, it occurred to me that I might want to revisit Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, ten verses from Matthew that he delivers, as Mary Baker Eddy says, “from the summit of devout consecration.”  It was there that I found this statement:

“Blessed are those who do hunger and thirst after righteousness…”

In the Bible that I was reading from, the verse stops at the bottom of the page.  So I let myself pause there and think about this statement before going on…and it was so beautiful.  There I was at the summit and I could see that I would never be without another mountain to climb.  There in front of me was the promise of an endless range of peaks awaiting me if I wanted to scale them.

The blessing wasn’t in getting to the top and congratulating myself on a victory.  The blessing was in getting to the top for the sheer joy of discovering that there were more mountains to climb.  I loved the climb.  I loved every icy handhold, every boulder field, every gale force wind above tree-line that made my eyes sting and my hands chafed. 

I still love the climb.  To discover that there are more adventures ahead of me is the
whole blessing….it is the filling of my soul. 

"...The farther you reach,...The more that you touch.
The more that you touch,...The fuller you feel.
The fuller you feel,...The less that you need.
The less that you need,...The farther you reach."

So today as I sit here in the middle of one of the most breathtaking canyons in the world, I am filled with questions.  I am absolutely aching with questions rather than the answers that the world would love to convince me I need in order to take important next steps in our life.  I feel blessed by this hunger, filled with a thirst that makes me want to weep with gratitude.  I am so grateful that I can still feel the longing for His voice in my heart, telling me to not let go…His touch at my shoulder encouraging me to reach for the next handhold on this climb…

It is the hunger to
reach that is the blessing today…not reaching the summit.  Of this I am sure.

And the view from the edge of this cliff…why it’s wonderful!



  1. Anonymous2:34 PM

    Dear Kate,
    How grateful I am you shared this
    article. You put into words what I
    felt last summer when God touched
    my shoulder, and led me out of the
    wilderness into health and joy.

    No matter what mountain I have to
    climb, I will listen for His voice.

    When my children started moving away from home,a friend said,
    "Let go, let God."


  2. Dear Kate,
    Thank you very much for this inspiring post. It really was perfect timing for me, and really got me thinking about why we climb mountains in our lives. In track last year, Mr. Simmons told the track team that the joy in anything you do is in the process, not the competitions. When I heard this I was like "huh!?!". Now I really understand what he was saying and I am really grateful for both of you.

    I recently edited my blog and have added inspiring links to other blogs. I'm sorry that I didn't ask you before I did it, but I added a link to your blog on my website. Is this OK? I'll get rid of it immediately, just say the word.

    Have a great day!

  3. Thank you for sharing.
    Your thoughts assure me -

  4. Kate,

    I am a musician and I had a different take on what Dan Fogelburg was saying at the beginning of the song. I don’t think that he was talking about frustration at all, but he was passing on thoughts about the path to wisdom. Have you ever met a person who was ignorant about a particular subject that you know very well, yet talked as if they were an expert? Usually they don’t even know what they don’t know.

    A wise person stays in touch with what they don’t know, so “the higher you climb, the more that you see; the more that you see, the less that you know,” meaning that as you learn more about life and what you love, you begin to see more clearly how much more there is yet to learn about life and what you love (the less that you know). This means to me, keep following God’s path for you (climbing) because it all leads to more knowledge about God’s path for you, because as you keep doing that, you see how much more happiness is down the road for you. The more you learn, the more you get in touch with the infinity of God’s plan for you, so the more clearly you see your own ignorance, or really the more clearly you see that you will never learn it all because it is infinite (God, what you love, what you are learning, etc.)

    The more that you realize your own ignorance the more that you love what you are doing and strive to do it better, the happier that you become following God’s plan and the more tolerant you become of the ignorance of others.