Some time ago, a fellow pastor shared the following story about teaching his young son how to climb trees: “When my son Aaron was five years old, he kept asking me to help him climb a very large tree in our backyard. At the time of his asking, I told him it was too cold. Finally, when it was warm enough out, it seemed like a good time for him to learn how to climb a tree.
“When I lifted Aaron onto the tree’s lowest branch, he panicked for fear of falling. I tried to coach him along, telling him to first kneel on the branch, then slowly stand up and climb to the center of the tree. But the only thing Aaron was concerned about was falling.
“He kept whining and crying, ‘I’m going to fall! I’m going to fall!’ I was unable to coax him, so I shouted, ‘Aaron!’ Once I got his attention, I said, ‘Don’t think about falling; think about climbing.’ Aaron thought about that for a moment, and then he proceeded to stand and climb to the center of the tree. His fear was gone, and he was able to do what he wanted.
“The next week Aaron wanted to climb the same tree again. This time I lifted him onto the lowest branch, and he said, ‘Daddy, this time I will think about climbing.’ He climbed confidently right up into the middle of the tree.
“The phrase ‘think about climbing’ has stuck with me. As I think about change in my own life — about tasks or projects that I need to complete that seem impossible — I often feel overwhelmed with fear. If I allow the fear to overcome me, I will be emotionally crippled. But if I think about climbing — not falling — then I will be able to see the project or challenge from a new height, with a new perspective.”
Concerning climbing, an organization advertised for climbers interested in setting new records for climbing the highest point in each of the 50 United States within a 100-day period. A young man named Todd Huston saw the article and decided to go for it. Seeking the advice of expert climbers, he trained hard. The expedition was scheduled to begin in April 1994.
Everything was on track up until the last two months. The sponsoring organization called Todd, telling him funding for the expedition had fallen through. The project was canceled.
Todd was devastated. His hopes and dreams all of his effort and dedication were wasted! He wrestled with the bad news. He had worked so hard, yet, the heart and determination he put into the project still existed. He made up his mind, “I will not quit.”
In the days that followed, Todd went to work organizing funding for a new expedition. He told himself and his supporters, “God willing, I’ll find a way to make this expedition happen.”
His hard work and determination paid off. With the logistics of each climb in place, Todd called the project “Summit America.” On June 1, 1994, Todd’s first climb began on Mt. McKinley in Alaska. One by one the highest point in each state was conquered.
All went well until the 47th climb. Two days before Todd’s arrival, two climbers were killed on Mt. Hood, Oregon. Everyone advised Todd the climb was too dangerous.
Filled with apprehension, Todd contacted an old high school friend and expert mountaineer, Fred Zalokar. Fred reassured Todd, saying, “You’ve come too far to quit now. Together, we’ll get up Mt. Hood safely.”
After careful planning, Todd and Fred stood on the summit of Mt. Hood. On August 7, 1994, just 66 days after he started, Todd climbed the last peak in Hawaii. Todd had triumphed over many obstacles, fulfilling his dream project “Summit America.”
There is one thing you should know: Thirteen years before “Summit America,” Todd Huston had his right leg amputated after a boating accident. Because of his faith in God and a heart full of determination, Todd, a most unlikely “climber of mountains,” became a champion mountaineer.
Climbing, whether it is a mountain summit, or the old oak tree in the back yard, always involves looking ahead, keeping your eyes on the goal, thinking about climbing, and not worrying about where you have been. The same is true spiritually as well.
F.B. Meyer, the famous British expositor and preacher of the Bible, put it this way: “It is a mistake to be always turning back to recover the past. The law for Christian living is not backward, but forward; not for experiences that lie behind, but for doing the will of God, which is always ahead and beckoning us to follow. Leave the things that are behind, and reach forward to those that are before, for, on each new height to which we attain, there are the appropriate joys that befit the new experience. Don’t fret because life’s joys are fled. There are more in front. Look up, press forward, the best is yet to be!”
In Hebrews 12:1-2, we read, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
God wants you to know that this coming year has tremendous potential, if only you will allow Him to accomplish in you what He wishes to do through you!
In other words, let’s think about climbing and look unto Jesus!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.