Perhaps the “hill” has a new summit age now that 50 is the “new 40”, 40 is the “new 30”, etc. Either way, I’m pretty sure I’m considered over it these days, at least by folks younger than I.
The thing I’m noticing, though, is that life doesn’t feel like a downhill slope – and for that, I am grateful and utterly encouraged! As a matter of fact, life still feels very much like an ongoing upward climb. At the moment, it feels like one of those climbs that goes from shelf to shelf. You know, you climb for a while, then take a short, level rest to catch your breath, then start climbing some more.
The most curious thing about climbing is that most of the time, you can’t see the top. You may see glimpses of the top – just enough to stay encouraged – but you never know precisely how the top is going to look or feel once you get there.
If I think too long or too hard about the climbing metaphor, I remember my first experience at rappelling. I attended a “summer enrichment” camp. Rock climbing and rappelling was one of our excursions. I don’t remember the climb, but I remember that after I reached the top and was asked to begin the descent, my knees were shaking uncontrollably – so much so that it took me a while to get myself back together well enough to be able to make the trip back down.
That’s what trauma does. It robs you of your memory of the beautiful climb. I’m sure the climb was exhilarating! I’m also sure that, if I had been aware that I would be gripped by fear and amnesia-by-trauma, I would have processed the trip up in some intentional way that would have allowed me to retain my good memories.
Since those days of youth, long ago and mostly forgotten, I have climbed many mountains, up and down. (Not real ones, mind you. Metaphoric ones. I do like to hike, but I believe my rappelling experience cured me of any notion that I might one day grow up to be a rock climber.) I must confess that I remember the more traumatic times more vividly than I remember the beautiful and peaceful times.
Now that I’m “over the hill”, or at least close to it, I think God is giving me a new gift: the gift of remembering the good. For this next phase of my life, I will remember what was traumatic only to the point of reflecting on what I’ve learned from it and seeing the love that brought me down to safer ground. I will be intentional about recognizing and remembering the beauty of each person and each day. Oh, what memories I will have!
My wish for you this Christmas Season is this gift of recognizing and remembering the beauty in your own life. Oh, what beautiful scenery we will see as we climb, each to our unseen mountain-tops!