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False mountain tops, fell walking and spiritual progress


mountain

mountain

If you have ever gone walking in hills and mountains you have probably come across false mountain tops. You are walking along happily, and the summit is in sight. You feel you are doing very well, people have told you that this is a two hour climb, yet you are almost there after a little more than an hour and a quarter. You push on at a brisk pace, realizing that before long you will reach the top, then it will be easier going.

Just as you almost reach the top, you see that it isn’t the top at all. It is just a ridge, or the slope of the hill flattens out slightly. The actual peak is still a considerable distance off. You look at your map and realise that you should have seen this coming. You are actually not even half way up. Rather than doing well you realise that you are slower than most people. You are probably feeling rather tired, disappointed, disheartened and rather silly. At this point some people would give up, I have been in a group where it has happened. Having thought a point was the top they reach it and feel they can go no further. When I was an inexperienced walker I used to reach these points, sit down in exhaustion, look at the map and try to work out where I really am and where I need to head, and when ready and rested continue. When I was a teenager I remember doing this three times on one mountain, each time convinced that I had reached the summit!

As a more experienced walker I can often see potential false-tops from contour lines on the map. If I am nearing what appears to be a summit I am prepared for it not to be, and continue at a steady pace.

The same thing can happen to us in spiritual progress. We can think we are doing very well, only to realise that we are are not doing nearly as well as we thought. This has happened to me recently, and made me realise that I am not nearly as experienced spiritually as I am as a fell walker!

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