We called the 4-1/2-mile route the Run of the False Summits. It was hilly, and just when you thought you'd made it up what surely was the last big hill, around the corner would be another.
This became a metaphor: Beware the false summit. Don't start coasting when you think the hard work is over.
In climbing terms, a false summit is a high point on a mountain that looks like the top while you're climbing it, but when you get there, you realize there's more to go. Even though it's easy to see the peak of a mountain from a distance, it's not so simple when you're close to it.
During the time I was doing this run, I was also working at an intense job that required three to four days of almost around-the-clock work and then a couple of days off before beginning it all over again. Often just when my colleagues and I thought the tough moments were over, something else would arise and require our best thinking once again.
I frequently thought of the false summit run and not wanting to give up when the unexpected hill loomed ahead. I needed to maintain a spiritual focus throughout the day, and this helped me become less prone to wearing out or feeling overcome with fatigue. And I became more aware of God's presence with me.
Even when the challenges seemed to be over for the day, I wouldn't let myself mentally check out. I wanted to be prepared for whatever might come my way, and I found that the best way to do this was to practice embracing the challenges and the coasting times with the same expectancy to see what God was unfolding for the moment.
It is a spiritual sense of things that neutralizes the feeling of fluctuating between hard times and easy times. Then, in place of the emotional ups and downs comes a calm sense that God is driving the ship – and that our task is to enjoy the ride.
Understanding God, good, as the impulse for all my activity meant that I had something more constant to rely on than personal effort – which seemed vulnerable to being worn out and used up.
The result was that I never felt exhausted, no matter how long the workday continued. Even on the days that ended easily without further eruptions, I stayed alert to how I could be prepared to help others if they needed it. And instead of taking my off-days just to catch up on sleep, I took time to explore the area where I was living (though I did head to bed earlier than usual). I learned that whatever work we're faced with, being overwhelmed isn't inevitable.
A friend has been teaching me that willingness to continue to pray, even when we think the challenge has been met, is a sign of strength. In the Bible, Paul advises us to "pray without ceasing" (I Thess. 5:17). To me, unceasing prayer means focusing thought on God, or using spiritual sense to meet challenges as opportunities for spiritual growth. And this makes us more alert to the constancy of good – even in challenging times.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote, "Undisturbed amid the jarring testimony of the material senses, Science, still enthroned, is unfolding to mortals the immutable, harmonious, divine Principle, – is unfolding Life and the universe, ever present and eternal" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 306).
This reminds me to approach life with a greater awareness of the underlying law of harmony guiding each of us and the universe, no matter what we're facing.
My beloved brethren,
be ye stedfast, unmoveable,
in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know
that your labour is not in vain
in the Lord.
I Cornithians 15:58