Monday, January 23, 2012

‘What Do I Do Now?’

Last weekend I attended a men’s retreat at a picturesque mountaintop setting. We had an excellent speaker who addressed biblical manhood from different perspectives.

His observations stood in striking contrast to both the distorted views of masculinity that pop culture serves up, as well as condescending, chauvinistic perspectives some supposedly “Bible-believing” churches teach. Many men left the retreat pumped up – encouraged to live out their faith in meaningful ways, challenged to go deeper in their walk with Jesus Christ, convicted about changes they need to make, maybe all of the above.

During the retreat I recalled similar “mountaintop experiences” I’ve had over the years. Many times I departed inspired, determined to become a different person.

But there’s a problem, as I noted in this blog some months back. Mountaintops aren’t designed for permanent residence. In fact, the first thing Sir Edmund Hillary said upon becoming the first person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest was, “Now what?” (Not really – at least I don’t think so. But seriously, once you’ve reached the top of the world, where do you go from there?)

When you leave your mountaintop, the destination is usually the valley below. And there deadlines, job pressures, financial obligations, relational conflicts, persistent bad habits and other problems can derail even great intentions.

In fact, more than once, my “spiritual high” from the mountaintop quickly morphed into discouragement upon returning to reality. “What do I do now?”

The key to hanging onto such spiritual resolve has two parts. First, it’s important to remember we don’t have to go it alone. If we let Him, God is our constant companion. We might have had a fresh encounter with Him on the mountaintop, but He’s waiting for us in the valley as well.

Psalm 138:7-10 assures us, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Second, God doesn’t ask us to live our lives isolated from others. As we were reminded at the retreat, our spouses are our helpmates, our completers. His design is for us to team together, as equal partners.

Beyond that, God also sends people our way to serve as friends, counselors, advisers, mentors. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 expands on that: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work…. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

So the next time you have a mountaintop experience and then find yourself stuck in the day-to-day doldrums of the valley, don’t try slugging it out on your own. The Lord’s no farther than a whispered prayer. If you’re married, God united you with someone for weathering life’s storms and reveling in its joys together. And He’ll send others your way to catch you when you stumble – so you can do the same for them.

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