Descending Down Your Mountains

Trekking up a mountain is a big deal (even Shaun King is doing it!).

I didn’t realize the magnitude of that statement until I actually reached the summit of Mt. Toubkal in Morocco.

But what I didn’t expect was that the descent down the mountain would be just as hard (if not harder).

After reaching the summit (13,671 ft), I assumed it to be smooth-sailing from there on out. I mean, the difficult part had to be over? Right?

Wrong.

Um.. big deal!

The journey back down to camp was just as draining — both physically and mentally.

The slopes seemed steeper, the rocks seemed bigger and the backpack seemed heavier.

Yes, I had accomplished my “goal” of reaching the summit, but was that really my end-goal?

My vision was short-sighted and I didn’t see the entire picture.

I forget sometimes that when I climb a “mountain”, I still need to make the trek back down.

I’ve had a few mountains that I’ve had to ‘descend’ in the past: mission trips, projects at work, family conflicts that needed resolution.

All require focus, intentionality, perseverance and a few band-aids.

::

Tell us about a “mountain” have you descended down.

42 Comments

  • Loren Pinilis

    September 28, 2011

    I never would have thought of it, but I can see what you’re saying: Going down is just as tough, if not tougher, than going up. I liked what you said about truly understanding your end-goal. There’s wisdom in simply putting one foot in front of the other – but at the same time, you need to have an eye on where you truly want to end up.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      Absolutely! Loren, when I was on my hike… there were times when I became so intently focused on “one more step… one more step…”, head down and eyes to the ground. I had to intentionally stop and remind myself where I was at, take a look at the bigger picture (the view of the mountain summit). When I did that, it was incredible.

      Reply
  • bill (cycleguy)

    September 28, 2011

    I live to go down a hill on my bicycle. I tell myself the reward of dying on the hill is the freedom of wind blowing through my helmet on the way down. As for the mountain: every spiritual mountaintop experience comes with that downhill that is hard to deal with. Glad you had a great time on your trek. Love your lessons the past two days. :)

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      Thanks, Bill!

      I remember the rush that I got when I would do that as a kid (go downhill on a bike). Truth be told, I haven’t ridden a bike in years. :(

      Reply
  • Arny

    September 28, 2011

    I love this Dustin…no one ever talks about coming back down from the mountain…

    one you reach the top…finish the project, finish achieving dreams, you still have to come down to deal with life around you…it’s tough to think about others once you’re at the top…desending is a great way to start…

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      … and the descent doesn’t have to be immediate. Take your time. Pace yourself. Consider it a part of the “bigger picture”.

      Reply
  • Cindy Holman

    September 28, 2011

    It is hard coming down off a steep hill – even in Seattle. You have to choose your footing wisely or you will fall – HARD. Great reminder – the descent can be just as exhausting – even when you think the real work is over – good life lesson – very true :)

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      We had steep, rocky parts as well – those were the toughest because you had to be intentional in your footing. One misstep and — BAM — you were on the ground. :)

      Reply
  • Jason Vana

    September 28, 2011

    Every time I lead a mission trip to Europe, we spend the devotion time of one of our team meetings talking about how rough it is to come back from a trip and get back into life – and how you maintain what God did in your life while going back to a job or school or whatever.

    I think we tend to forget how hard coming back down can be. Great post Dustin!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      Some of my overseas trips came to mind as well, Jason. I’ve personally experienced the adjustment and you’re right — how do we bring those ‘mountain top’ experiences back down to our everyday life?

      Reply
  • Moe

    September 28, 2011

    I’m from NY, so I know nothing of hills. Nothing of mountains, nothing of hiking. I do remember being on roller blades and going up this hill (street) and it’s always tough. But going down, It was awesome… until you realize your brakes don’t work on the way down because you are going too fast. Only solution: throw self down. Yes, I have the scars to show. But it was fun.

    Maybe us too get a bit over-excited when we climb our “mountains” and on the way down forget that there is still a level of control that we must maintain. It’s not just about climbing the mountain, it’s about coming down and living to tell the story about it. Oh, and there are always more mountains to climb.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      I’m certain your roller blading experience would have gone viral on Youtube had you video’d that.

      >>”It’s not just about climbing the mountain, it’s about coming down and living to tell the story about it. Oh, and there are always more mountains to climb.”

      Wise stuff, Moe. I’ll be chewing on that. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  • Ryan

    September 28, 2011

    I had never thought of goals like this but you bring up a good point. We have to return to our foundation always.

    I ran a marathon back in April and trained hard for months to accomplish a goal time. I made the time but was grateful that I could then “descend down” from my mountain. For me, that meant spending more time with my wife and friends after being very busy and tired from running for months. It was nice to return to my foundation even after the accomplishment.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      Marathon training is intense! When we ran ours 5 years ago, we trained for months! Then, like you said, all is back to normal. But, like Moe said, we have a story to tell…

      Reply
  • Rob Shepherd

    September 28, 2011

    Congrats on that adventure. I once followed a middle school guy up a Mt. He promised that a campsite wasn’t that far away. I went with him in flip flops and no flashlight. It took almost an hour to get to the top and we were scared out of our minds because it was so dark.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      LOL. How long ago was this adventure of yours? :)

      Reply
  • Jon Stolpe

    September 28, 2011

    I think marathon training is a good example. The training part is like going up the hill, but you still have to run the marathon – that’s the going down part. And it can definitely be challenging. I’ve run a couple of marathons, and this has been the case both times. As I consider a third marathon, your post is a great reminder. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      Very cool – which one are you considering, Jon?

      Reply
  • Jim F

    September 28, 2011

    How was breathing for you at that altitude? I was in Costa Rica a few years back and we were just above 14,000 feet on a volcano and I remember vividly how out of breath I got when I decided to run to a spot to get a good view (Incidentally the picture that is the header on my blog is from that very spot).

    I have had a number of climbing experiences and life experiences that really point out what you say about how hard coming down is. You are so right about focus being on one thing and then you have totally let down your guard which makes the rest so hard.

    Excellent thoughts!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      Honestly, it doesn’t too bad. Our trek was split up into two days… and felt the altitude adjustment much more the first day. Then, I suppose I adjusted pretty well, because I didn’t really feel it after that. I also got a pesky altitude headache. :(

      Reply
  • Jon

    September 28, 2011

    You know I’ve never really though about the descent. We speak of mountain top highs, and valley like lows. I’m no mountain climber, but the going down part seems to be faster because you’re with gravity. But, like you said, you still need that control or focus, or you will fall hard.

    Thanks for sharing man.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      It was much faster! We descended down twice as fast as going up. Faster yes, but required much more focus.

      Reply
  • Tom

    September 28, 2011

    Thanks for the perspective and lesson! What is the true goal!

    Reply
  • TMZ

    September 28, 2011

    Awesome picture of life. I climbed an incredible mountain this summer serving with a youth missions camp in Milwaukee. Since returning to my “normal life” last month, I feel like I’ve been falling, falling, falling steadily downhill. Definitely breaking out the band-aids and praying for the perseverance until I level out again.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      Thanks for the comment Thomas. I had old campus ministers who lived in Milwaukee–small world.

      Just remember, God is constant. He is the same God now as he was last summer.

      Reply
      • Dustin

        September 29, 2011

        Oh and just checked out your blog – hello fellow Bulldog!

        Reply
  • chris vonada

    September 29, 2011

    indeed, you are correct, the journey down the mountain can be just as treacherous! My example comes from years of working in environmental consulting. I always felt like I was on top of the mountain whenever I won a big project or found a new client… but the real work had just begun at that point as now we had to perform on the project. Thanks for a great one Dustin!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      Great example, Chris. Working in sales – I can completely relate. Yes, the “sale” is great – but investing in the customer after the fact is where the real work begins.

      Reply
  • jbussell

    September 29, 2011

    Our church has adopted an unreached people group in Mali. We take trips to the village 4-6 times a year and I was fortunate enough to go on the initial trip as well as lead a group back in. Because our purpose is to tell the people in the village about Christ I would think of that as the summit of the trip. But, because it is an 8-10 hour drive from the capital city and the about 36 hours of plane travel to get back home I would say that it the getting back down the mountain. On both of my trips there get back down the mountain has definitely been the toughest part.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      Wow, what an experience. I wasn’t too far away (in Morocco)! When are you going back? :)

      Reply
      • jbussell

        September 29, 2011

        It really is a great experience.

        My guess is that I will go back sometime in later 2012 or 2013. My wife is going with a group in December.

        Reply
  • Luther Wesley

    September 29, 2011

    It is difficult climbing but there is always that goal, the aspiration of attaining the summit. The same is true of our spiritual life….the highs are awesome, exciting, and we cannot wait to get there and see the view.

    Coming down is different though. The peak has been attained and we must begin the descent, which must always come, and it takes discipline to slowly and steadily maneuver downwards.

    I wonder how often we forget, though, that the valley is where the most fertile ground is and there is always another mountain on the other side :)

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      Really good comment, Luther. Thanks for sharing. I think you hit the nail on the head. Steadily maneuvering downward requires much effort, but it’s worth it.

      Reply
  • Ryan Tate

    September 29, 2011

    Hmmm, this is great insight. I never thought about the journey down being just as hard, if not harder. There are no shortcuts in life, are there?

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 29, 2011

      Thanks for the sharing, Ryan. No shortcuts, indeed! :)

      Reply
  • Benjer McVeigh

    September 29, 2011

    In my position as a youth pastor, I tend to overlook helping students down the mountain when it comes to really emotional events like a mission trip. As a commenter has already alluded to, the trip down can be just as challenging, and it’s a great time to roll one’s ankle. In the same way, if I fail to lead teenagers down the mountain, I’m setting them up for a terrible let down, no matter how great the summit experience was.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 30, 2011

      You’re right, Benjer – it’s not a one and done thing, but rather setting the foundation for the future. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  • Keri

    September 29, 2011

    This is such an interesting though, Dustin. I guess going down the mountain is when you can get cocky, obnoxious, rule out that you need help from others, or that you’ve “made it”.

    I feel like there is a small part of me that has often felt a smidgen of pride at my academic degrees. Funny thing is, just because you have a piece of paper, doesn’t mean much. You still have to actually put that knowledge to work and prove yourself worthy of said degree. It’s in the learning and growing that you truly understand all that head knowledge.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 30, 2011

      Interesting – so if you’ve already bagged the summit, we become a little self-focused because “we’re already done”? Probably so…

      Reply
  • seekingpastor

    September 29, 2011

    To a degree, I have to descend down it after every sermon. Can be a difficult transition if I’m not focused and aware.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      September 30, 2011

      Thanks for sharing – while I’ve yet to preach a sermon, I can imagine that being so. :)

      Reply

Leave a Reply