The man was on a journey, walking down a rugged path with the Book as his guide. He consulted it often, as he had discovered that following the Book’s directions was the safest way to travel.
Today the sun was shining, and he felt good. He paused for rest under a shady tree. As was his habit, he pulled out the Book and glanced through it.
A phrase leaped out at him, and he paused, strangely excited.
Climb the mountain, it said. The man looked up, and sure enough, there was a mountain ahead, just off to the side of the road. Foothills rolled up to its wooded slopes. He looked at the Book again, just to make sure he had the instruction right.
Climb the mountain.
So he got up, tucked the Book in his pocket, and strode ahead with confidence. Reaching the mountain, he began to ascend its wooded flank. It got steeper, so he rested for a time and checked the Book, just to make sure.
Climb the mountain.
So he continued.
A couple of hours later he was beginning to doubt the instruction. The way had become increasingly difficult. Now he had come to a dead end. An almost vertical rock face blocked his passage. The sun was beating down, and he was scratched, sore and thirsty. He stood and looked up at the rocky cliff that stretched to dizzy heights above. How was he ever going to get up that cliff? He sighed, and sat down to check the Book again. The command was still there. He had a sudden thought, and flipped through he pages. Sure enough, he found the same command several times throughout the Book.
He knew enough about the Book to know that there were times that the instructions seemed to make no sense, and yet were always the right thing to do. So he got up, faced the cliff, and began. Toe holds were found, fingers dug in, and arm muscles quivered as he inched himself upward. An hour passed, then two. Finally he had to stop, wedging his foot and arm into a small crack in the cliff face. He chanced a look down, and groaned. He had not made much progress. Climb the mountain, he told himself.
He took a deep breath and looked up, searching for where to go next. But the more he looked, the more he realized that there was nowhere else. He was stuck, at a dead end. It was absolutely impossible to continue. He climbed down carefully and made his way down the wooded slope. and back to the path.
He walked slowly, head hanging in shame. He had failed. He put the Book in his pocket and trudged along, discouraged. He wondered if perhaps this was the right path to be on after all.
A little ways down the road he came across another man, who was sitting on a boulder, reading his Book. As he approached, the stranger looked up and smiled. They greeted each other warmly, and spoke quietly for awhile about the trials of the path, things that should be avoided, and exchanged news of others they had seen along the way. Finally the man got up his courage.
“Have you climbed the mountain yet?” he asked. His companion laughed.
“Oh yes, wasn’t it wonderful?
The man hung his head.
“I couldn’t do it.” he admitted.
The other looked carefully at him, then smiled gently.
“I think I know the trouble. Did you practice on those hills first?” He waved to the foothills that were beside the path. The man shrugged.
“No. The Book said to climb the mountain.” The other man opened his Book.
“But look here.“
Where the man’s finger pointed, he saw: Climb the hills. The man flipped a few pages, and pointed again: Climb the hills.
“You see?” the stranger asked. “You must climb those hills first. Then you will have the skills for the mountain. To attempt the mountain without first mastering the hills is foolish, and leads only to discouragement, and failure. The mountain may seem more exciting, and it is wonderful, but it is only possible once you have practiced on the hills.”
The man looked at the stranger with new hope. He thanked his friend, and set off with purpose back towards the mountain. But it would wait. First he was going to check out those hills.
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