Monday, August 25, 2008

Pushing Yourself Outside the Box: Colorado Rocky Mountain High

By John Jefferson Davis, PhD
Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics

“If you find yourself getting winded, just stop and relax. Take another 25 steps, stop, relax, do it again, and soon you will be at the top.”

That was the sage advice given to to me and my wife Robin by the Rev. Jurgen Lias of Christ Church, Hamilton, as we began with him the ascent to the top of the 14,000 foot Mount Quandary in the Rockies about an hour and a half from Denver.

“Am I crazy, or what,” I found myself thinking that morning. “Here I am, a rather sedentary 62 year old seminary professor whose idea of ‘vigorous exercise’ is a 30 minute walk around the indoor track at the Bennett Center, tackling a “14er” in the Colorado Rockies?! How did I let myself be talked into this?”

My adventurous wife Robin, had originally suggested that we accompany our pastor, who is an avid hiker and climber, on some preliminary “warmup” hikes in the foothills – but the game plan had suddenly morphed into a venture of Everest-like proportions. Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this when you felt totally over your head?

I began the ascent, trying to practice some “walking meditation” (“Help me, Jesus”), not really understanding at the time what a 3.5 mile climb in thin air would do to my aching and aging body. 25 or 30 steps, huffing and puffing, stopping to rest and to enjoy the magnificent mountain vistas, and even close-range views of mountain goats: we did not make it to the summit, but had to turn back at 13,500 feet elevation because of a threatening afternoon thunderstorm.

Push yourself outside the box:

So much of life is a matter of expectations, isn’t it? For me, not making it to the top was not a defeat, but a moral victory; reaching 13,500 feet was in fact a new personal high.

Push yourself outside the box:

As I reflected later on that day’s climb, I realized that our experience was in many ways a metaphor of life: we need to “push ourselves outside of the box” – physically, emotionally, spiritually – in order to experience personal growth and to resist our natural tendencies to stick to the safe and the predictable, to our personal comfort zones.

The next morning, Jurgen suggested that we do morning prayer together, following readings and lessons from the Book of Common Prayer. We read the psalms and lessons for the day, and had a time of free prayer for common concerns. Even this was a bit of “pushing outside the box” for me devotionally, for as a Myers-Briggs “INTJ” I tend to gravitate toward introspective rather than group-oriented forms of spirituality. But the experience was a good one, and Robin and I expect to continue the practice from time to time in the future.

Push yourself outside the box:

Are there ways that you need to “push yourself outside the box” in your ministry or in your relationship to God? Do you feel that you may be “stuck in the same old place” in your ministry or devotional life? You don’t need to go to the Colorado Rockies or attempt a 14,000 foot climb to break into some new areas of personal growth.

I hope that God will be leading you into new areas of personal and professional growth during the days ahead.

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