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Climbing Mt. Fuji

by Tim O'Hearn

He who never climbs Mt. Fuji once is a fool. He who climbs Mt. Fuji more than once is an even greater fool.

Old Japanese proverb

Living practically in the shadow of Sandia Peak in Albuquerque, I regularly apply that proverb. I have climbed Mt. Fuji once. Clear to the top. 12,385 feet in altitude at sunrise, at age 28. That is why I use this proverb to justify not climbing the La Luz trail to the top of Sandia Peak (10, 378 feet) at age 49.

On the other hand, climbing that venerable volcano did remind me that I am on a climb even yet. One that will reach a greater altitude, but also requires more effort. One that has taken me 49 years and I have yet to reach the summit. For as I struggled up Fuji one scripture repeated in my brain: Philippians 3:13-14.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Climbing a mountain, even one like Fuji with clear hiking trails, is not easy. In fact, for an out-of-shape, sea-level-living pencil pusher it can be downright hard.

One rule in climbing is the one Paul mentions—don't look down. Don't worry about where you have been. Forget those things which are behind. If you look at how little apparent progress you have made, you will get discouraged. If, on the other hand, you concentrate on how much closer the top is getting, you can keep moving forward, reaching forth unto those things which are before.

Sometimes you make a misstep on the climb. You hit a loose rock and go downward for a while. I don't need to tell you that that happens on our spiritual climb as well. We have all experienced it. But Paul had the solution even to those slips. He said "I press toward the mark." When the slips come, the tendency of our lives should still be upward. After all, one step backward and two steps forward is still a net gain of a step.

The hardest thing for me on Fuji was dealing with the altitude. Some even buy bottles of oxygen to use on the way. A danger on our spiritual walk is dealing with the altitude. Thus we have the "holier than thou" syndrome, or the "Christianity is so stifling" disorder. We need the breath of oxygen, the Spirit of God, to help us keep our wits. We will never reach the heights without it.

Finally, one keeps going for the ability to say, "I did it." In my case, I have been rewarded with few sights like watching the sun rise over the clouds from the top of the mountain. But there is a reward of greater beauty in the climb to heaven. To see the sun of God's light will be a prize of the high calling. No greater prize can there be.

I had the opportunity to climb Mt. Fuji again. I didn't; I'm no fool. I haven't even tried the lower but steeper Sandia Peak. But our daily climb will be a one-time effort. If we don't make the top, we can't try again later. Let's make the most of it while we can.