Mountains We Have Climbed – You Can’t Fall Up!
“I tripped on my shoelace and I fell up…”
So begins a favorite whimsical children’s poem where down becomes up and up becomes down (see the image for the full poem). The laws of gravity are somehow reversed and the poets life is turned upside down!
It’s from a book of poetry by Shel Silverstein called Falling Up. I remember checking out this book from the school library many times as a child. It was quite popular and to even find it on the shelf during media center time meant you were really lucky. So, any child who did find it would grab it real quick and run straight to check out.
Now of course, you can’t really fall up like the book title suggests, but what if you imagined it. Falling up instead of down. Throwing down instead of throwing up! Would that look like or feel like? (Well maybe just consider the falling part…not the throwing part!)
The poetry in the book is about seeing the world from a different angle, a different perspective, a different vantage point. It’s not the world that is turned upside down, but it’s the person who is upended. And in being turned upside down, the poet describes all sorts of things throughout the book with a new, fresh and childlike set of eyes.
While it might be fun for adults and children to imagine falling up, one thing is for sure – we cannot!
But we can climb up…up to the mountain top. And from the mountain top the world will look different! So, maybe this simple children’s book is about seeing the world from the mountain top with new eyes, fresh perspective, and childlike wonder!
But before you get there, you have to climb because you can’t fall to the top. And climbing up takes a bit more work than falling up!
Think with me about the climb. What happens along the climb? There are all sorts of inclines and rocks and different types of earth and ground that we must traverse. There are…
- External obstacles that you must navigate
- Landscape/Environment/Terrain – How steep, How rocky, gorges, trees and undergrowth
- What might these be for you along your mountain?
- Maybe it’s the challenging person you have to work with
- The people you have to manage
- Maybe the tasks and physical obstacles before you
- The decisions you have to make
- Maybe it’s tests that stand in the way of medical procedures
- Maybe it’s treatments that stand in the way of healing
- Maybe it’s distance that stands between you and a goal
- Maybe that distance is time and you have to wait until you get to where you are going
There are all kinds of things outside of us in the world that we must navigate in around and through as we climb those metaphorical mountains. But obstacles are not always external. Some of them are internal…
- Internal hurdle that you must cross over under or through
- Your feelings and emotions – anxiety when you see a big obstacle ahead and it looks dangerous; fear when your foot slips and you make a mistake; stress when the climb is taking longer than you thought or planned
- Those defeating thoughts that creep into your mind – I can’t make it, I’m not strong enough, good enough, talented enough, skilled enough
- A question you have and an answer you are seeking
- A feeling of separation or lostness or alienation
- Maybe it’s pain from being hurt by a former church, by a pastor or Christian friend
- Maybe it’s some belief that a church has forced down your throat but you know in the depths of your being isn’t right
- Maybe it’s because you have felt kicked out, unwanted or neglected by a spiritual community
Whatever you internal hurdle or external obstacle, you have to work to get through it, you have to climb up cause you sure can’t fall up, you have to want to get to the stop and keep taking step after step until you get there.
Saul (better known as Paul) learned this lesson. Read about his mountain journey on the Road to Damascus:
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
He asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.”
He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”
But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.”
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
This journey would have taken Saul through some mountains. Likely routes include traveling along the edge of mountains of the Golan Heights or through the mountains of Samaria. Either way Saul is traveling through some mountainous terrain, traveling on ancient roads, but nonetheless rocky hilly earth. While he would not have exactly been forging a new path through the mountains, he was definitely navigating through them.
The journey to Damascus from Jerusalem was probably about a two week journey. So, there were undoubtedly external and internal obstacles. Two weeks of travel is mental taxing even for the best of us! It tests our mental and physical endurance, internal patience, our external stamina.
Along this mountainous journey, Saul is stopped dead in his tracks by a blinding light, by God. Saul had been persecuting Christians and was known for his harsh behavior towards them. And so it is a dramatic moment when on the mountain road he finally sees the light. When some light is shed on his life and he sees himself – his actions, his attitudes – in a new way. That the light is blinding shows the gravity and extent of Saul’s experience. It is a life changing experience there on the mountain. It is, we might say, one of those eternal mountain top experiences that changes you.
But this eternal experience has only just begun there on the mountain. Saul is blinded physically. But his physical blinding is also representative of mental and spiritual blindness. So, this eternal experience has its own internal and external obstacles to traverse.
And it takes a disciple of Jesus names Anninias for the culmination of this eternal experience to happen. Anninias speaks a blessing over Saul and the story describes scales falling from Saul’s eyes. It seems he can immediately see. And Saul responds by giving himself through baptism. That is a pretty powerful, internal, external and eternal baptismal experience if ever there was one!
Saul had to travel through the mountains blinded. It’s a good thing he had some traveling companions with him because it would have no doubt been a difficult journey without sight. It would have been difficult physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Saul’s story reminds us that:
You cannot fall up over the external or the internal. But you can climb up to the eternal.
And when you get to the top…like the poem Falling Up you just may see things differently than you did from the bottom of the mountain. Saul certainly did see things differently, literally he is blinded and his eyes are opened anew to see again as if for the first time. He is changed forever. And he is baptized to symbolize and signify this change as he becomes a follower of Jesus Christ.
While it might be fun for adults and children to imagine falling up, one thing is for sure – we cannot! But we can climb up….up to the mountain top. And from the mountain top the world will look different! So climb brothers and sisters, climb like never before over the external, through the internal for the eternal awaits you.