Out in the western part of Ireland is a great little town called Westport and some 7 km outside is Croagh Patrick or Patrick’s mountain. The story goes that he climbed to the top and fasted for 40 days. If this is true, there’s every chance it was a brutal experience because, like many mounts, this thing creates its own weather. It can be “partly cloudy” at the bottom and driving rain at the top. The day we climbed it became clouds, drizzle, sheets of rain and then hail, and wind hard enough to knock your balance.
While we were making our way up the path my wife and I were constantly passed by runners. Runners! They were on their way up or down, all in colorful gear. Then we also saw the people who were making their way slowly, walking sticks in hand and barefoot. Barefoot! It’s a rocky path and whether you’re running it or walking barefoot it’s treacherous. There are streams running through the rocks as well as a pretty one alongside the path, so rocks can move or just be slick.
So, why do this? Obviously, some people are challenging their bodies. There’s a local triathlon of sorts in the first weeks of November which includes Croagh Patrick as part of the run, as well as biking and kayaking. Then there’s going after God and so a challenge to one’s soul, one’s whole being trying to demonstrate something to the Almighty… and probably within one’s self. People climb because they have a prayer and they’re expressing the depth of their need to God, begging for him to intervene in an amazing way. People climb to gain a new sense of God’s presence, just getting in touch and clearing away whatever’s clamored on. People climb to do penance for something they’ve done wrong and to let God know the depth of their sorrow for sin.
I climb because I enjoy God. And this mount and his servant, Patrick, are marvels he created and that I want to credit with enjoyment.
I am not seeking perfection but I am seeking maturity. I want to mature in the depth of my enjoyment of God. I want to mature in my responsiveness to his Spirit’s guidance. I want to mature in my understanding of what he’s doing in the world and my part in it. What I want is to be well, not perfect… not in the way most people talk about perfection. I don’t think there’s some form of perfection that’s going to help me get face to face with God or will create purity of heart. Maturity is something that grows over time and over conversation. It grows through observation and participation. It grows as a whole person. It grows, sort of, without working on it, like fruit that is part of a plant that is in communion with its complete environment.
So, I admire those who clamor to make their bodies stronger or who toil upward to find a meaningful assurance within their spirits, and I pray they find those things. I pray that God uses those activities to reveal himself. I also pray that I may rest in what God has done through Jesus, in what Jesus taught and in the work of Jesus’ Spirit to shape me as he desires in this environment I inhabit.