“All of us had suffered greatly to get to this moment�I had eaten little and slept not at all since leaving Camp 2, two days earlier. Every time I coughed, the pain from my torn thoracic cartilidge felt like someone was jabbing a knife beneath my ribs and brought tears to my eyes. But if I wanted a crack at the summit, I knew that I had to ignore my infirmities and climb.”
-From Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer
These are the words of the reporter who went on an expedition to the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on earth at more than 29,000 feet! To many, this mountain is affectionately called “the roof of the world.” To hear Krakauer’s account, where several people paid thousands of dollars and volunteered to experience the most savage conditions, it’s hard to understand why anyone would willingly take this on. A wind chill factor 100 degrees below zero, temperatures so cold they could freeze your eye balls if you so much as shed a tear, fingers cracked and bleeding that make lacing your boots excruciating, and air so thin, you need supplemental oxygen just to breathe. What drives these extreme mountain climbers to endure such hardships is inexplicable, sometimes even to them. It’s just something they say they “have to do.” One thing they do know is that victory is waiting for them at the top of the mountain.
These could also be Jesus’ words, as He willingly continued His journey which led to His ascent up another forbidding elevation, Golgotha (“Place of the Skull”). Several people died on that 1996 Everest expedition, and Jesus’ journey resulted in the same tragic outcome. Golgotha was only a hill, but like a mountain climber launching his assault on Everest, Jesus set His sights on the summit, and dragged His abused body up that hill, step by painful step. His goal wasn’t just to make it to the top. It wasn’t simply to die on a cross. His goal was to single-handedly save humankind. It was something He “had to do,” and He humanly endured everything necessary to make it happen and achieve the victory.
Life is full of hills, holes, mountains, valleys and Everests. Sometimes, I seem to face them all in one day. But just knowing there are those who have endured more extreme conditions than I will ever be called upon to face, helps me endure whatever difficulties I meet. It also helps me identify the “hardships” which really aren’t that difficult. For example, yesterday I got out of a meeting where the air conditioning was cranked up and everyone was “freezing.” As soon as I commented about it to a co-worker, I immediately thought of Everest, and suddenly, reconsidered my perspective. It didn’t take away the effects of the chilly room, but it made me think twice about feeling inconvenienced by it. My life is full of examples like this, and I can’t think of a single one which would remotely compare to surviving Everest or being crucified. There isn’t one. In the future, I’ll try to borrow some of the bravery, dignity, and endurance of both the Everest climbers and Jesus. I will try to ignore my infirmities and just climb.