When talking about climbing a mountain, people focus on reaching the summit; as if climbing up is the only way to conquer the mountain. Experienced mountaineers know, however, that as important as the initial climb up is, the climb down is just as important. For without a successful descent, the ascent to the summit would be futile.
During the descent, climbers have to battle with exhaustion and physical exertion, and fight the urge to be more lax after reaching the peak. It is no wonder that some mountaineers consider the descent down the mountain to be the real challenge.
Goals and challenges are often compared to mountains. And like the aspiring climbers, most of us focus on overcoming the mountains in our lives just by climbing up the summit. But are we as prepared for when the trail turns downhill?
Up in the Summit
I’ve climbed four mountains (one of which I climbed twice) in my lifetime. My favorite part of the climb is always reaching the summit. I love seeing everything from a bird’s-eye view – from the top of the tallest building down to the tiniest house my eyes can recognize. I basked in my “success” by taking a lot of pictures. Up on the summit, I felt that all my efforts and pains had been worth it.
After reaching my fourth summit though, I did not just see the things below me I also started noticing the higher mountains in front of me. They seemed to be inviting me to aim for greater heights. That’s when I realized that to climb these higher mountains I first needed to come down safely from where I was.
For you see, mountains and peaks are rarely connected. There were no upward trails, no shortcuts that would lead me to a higher peak from the top of the mountain I had just climbed. In other words, to reach another summit – loftier and more majestic than my last one – I first need to descend from the summit that I have learned to love, the one where I currently am.
The problem is there’s not much glory in the descent. It’s not as exciting as climbing up, and it doesn’t merit Instagram-worthy photos. Many of us, in fact, can’t wait to climb down the mountain so we can start bragging about our experience at the top. However, we can learn just as much wisdom and experience from climbing down as we can from climbing up. We should not rush through our descent, but we should also relish every moment just as we did when we were ascending.
In facing our mountains of life, we will have our ups, and sometimes, we will reach our summits. We enjoy these experiences, and we wish they would never end. Then there are our downs, our descents. In dark contrast to our bright moments, we don’t want to be there. We just want to latch onto our happy moments and not let go.
We have to realize, though, that just because the path is downhill, it doesn’t mean we’re being led to our downfall. The downhill trail is essential to more exciting and rewarding adventures in the future.
Climbing Higher Mountains
The descent from the summit also doesn’t lessen our feelings of achievement from our ascent. Instead, it prepares us for new challenges by slowing us down and encouraging us to rest for a time, so we can become stronger and wiser for our next climb. Don’t fear the descent! For the best thing about being down is that there’s no way to go but up, and what heights our Heavenly Father has in store for us!