So far this year, I’ve tried to take comfort in that old riddle ,
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
And as I have plodded along making tiny bits of progress on my huge tasks, I have been fairly satisfied.
When a friend asked how I was doing, I said, “I’ve eaten up to one of the elephant’s knees.”
She laughed. “That’s quite a LOT on an elephant.”
But one morning as I was asking the Lord for guidance in planning my projects for the week,
it seemed as if He suggested a different picture for my consideration.
Why not think of this as climbing a mountain?
As I began to think of the differences in those two perspectives,
I realized how mountain climbing could be a much more helpful analogy for me.
First of all, I have never really wanted to eat an elephant.
And when I have heard the old saying quoted,
I generally think of it in regard to something difficult that I don’t necessarily enjoy doing, yet I know I must do it.
Many of my plans for this year fall in that category.
The longer I thought about it,
the more I realized that the eating an elephant perspective sounds more like being persistent in doing a duty.
Not always that exciting, is it?
Besides, when you feel forced to eat something you don’t particularly like,
even eating one bite can be an unpleasant task, right?
And, I don’t know about you, but my year’s plan is going to take a LOT of bites.
Then I thought about climbing mountains.
While I’m really not a mountain climber,
if I were to climb a mountain,
it would be an adventure I would take with companions I enjoy.
While our goal would be to reach the top,
for me, the benefits along the way would be just as important:
enjoying nature, deepening friendships as we plod along, resting in beautiful nooks, laughing around campfires,
and facing challenges we face along the way by combining our skills and resources.
In my mind, the moments of standing at the top of the mountain enjoying the magnificent view
and the sense of accomplishment would only be one part of the pleasure.
Perhaps not the most significant one.
As I look at my year’s tasks from the mountain climbing perspective, I find it produces an entirely different feeling. I’m not focused so intently on how far I have come in reaching my goals.
For me, as a strongly goal-oriented person, I need to be careful in this area.
By taking the mountain climbing perspective,
I focus more on living each moment,
enjoying my experiences along the way,
allowing the process to develop my character and enrich my relationships with those with whom I interact.
Maybe you like eating elephants.
But if you’ve already grown tired of elephant this year,
perhaps you might enjoy mountain climbing instead.
A nice Psalm to read is Psalm 121. Here are the first two verses:
I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.