A good friend of mine is a self-described “adrenaline junkie” and loves mountain climbing as well as other types of “extreme” sports. He and his wife celebrated their wedding anniversary a few weeks ago by scaling Guadalupe Peak.
In an email he sent to me upon their return, he described the feeling of reaching the summit after an exhilarating climb.
“When I looked out at the distance all around me, and looked back down the trail from which we’d just climbed, I didn’t feel the uplifting sense of accomplishment I was expecting,” he said. “Rather, I felt humbled […] it made me feel very small and insignificant in comparison to how vast and permanent everything around me seemed.”
I get the same feeling any time I’m before the crashing tide of the ocean, or miles above the earth in a passenger jet… that whatever overinflated sense of myself, my talents, or accomplishments, it seems futile in the face of something so much more ancient and indomitable than I am.
Standing atop a mountain or before a raging sea bragging: “I can arc weld underwater!” or “I can read Medieval Latin!” or “I once scored four touchdowns in a single game!” is comically absurd. Time is a great leveler and the infinite depth of the universe defeats us.
Yet, in that humility there is glory. In knowing our insignificance we start to understand an impulse far greater than any abject fear: awe. A true sense of awe directs one toward worship, a facet of human existence that supersedes any doctrine of formal religious practice.
Human beings are designed to worship, whether it’s Jehovah, the Dallas Cowboys, or our own smug sense of self-satisfaction: we all bow before some altar. There is an insatiable thirst in the heart of man to worship, which is why we do the things we do.
Much like my friend who stood upon a mountain’s summit, we too stand upon a precipice of our own. We stand at the culmination of another great span of 365 days (366 since it’s a leap year), facing the innumerate possibility of this newborn year of our Lord 2012.
Some of you are already scrambling.
Another friend of mine manages a fitness center in the Hill Country and he’s seeing record attendance in just the first week of 2012. Attendance breaking last year’s record, a record that was set in the first month of 2011 which, in turn, broke the previous year’s record that was set in January 2010.
See where this is going?
This is indeed a time for new beginnings and fresh starts, the person you will be in December has a lot to do with the decisions you make today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. You are cultivating your year even now.
Are you sowing the seed or idly dreaming of flowers? Are you driving full throttle into 2012 or just spinning your wheels? If you’re anything like me, you feel a slight tremor of panic at just how fast last year passed by and are not a little bit fearful that this year is going to rush by just as quick.
I don’t want to alarm you, but it will.
God help me… I’m going to blink my eyes, take a turn about the room, and I’ll be sitting down to write my first column of 2013. I swear I just did this!
We are all standing before the face of another new year to climb, so let us do so. The mountain may well outlast us, but we can still put one foot in front of the other. Indeed we must.