This evening I went with a few friends to climb The Incline. The Incline was once the Mount Manitou Scenic Incline Railway, a cable car train that, before shutting down in 1990, took people to about 8,600 feet. The trail goes straight up for about one mile with an average grade of 41 degrees. The steepest section is at a grade of 68 degrees. Half-rotten wood rails pose as stairs up the side of the mountain. A comparison to Jacob's ladder might be appropriate--straight up to heaven.
This is a view of the incline from Highway 24. It's the tiny strip up the side of Mount Manitou. Pikes Peak is in the background.
This was the first time on The Incline this season. And as my lungs will gladly tell you, the first time is both painful and rewarding. There is a point, usually about half-way up (maybe not even that far) where my mind starts telling me that it can't be done. I must be insane. I'm not in good enough shape to pull this off. The air is too thin up here. I should give in and head back down before I fall back down (don't worry, Mom, it's not that dangerous).
But then another thought begins to take shape in your brain. But I have to do this. I wanted to do this. It's worth it. It can be done. Look at all the other people doing it. I've done it before. I want to stand at the top of the Incline and look down. I want to run down Barr Trail on that final surge of adrenaline. I can do it. I can do it. And you start taking it three steps at a time. One, two, three...one, two, three...three more...one, two, three...and before you know it you are at the top, looking down over the city.
On my refrigerator door I have a piece of paper on which I've written out what it means for my body to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).
- my body is both sacrifice and temple and should therefore be treated with appropriate reverence.
- the health and well-being of the physical body should be set aside as holy before the Lord.
- both physical strength and physical pain serve to bring honor and glory to God.
- what I choose to eat or drink should bring glory to God.
- what I choose to eat or drink should honor the hands who helped bring it to my table.
These definitions came out of a period in which I was going through a rather intense physical battle. I fought with God on why I was experiencing so much pain and why none of the specialists were coming up with a quick solution. As I battled, I began to look into what scripture said on physical suffering. I began to understand what the body as a "living sacrifice" means--that my body literally does not belong to me but has been given-up willingly and whole-heartedly to the Lord. I began to understand that the ways that I interact with my body--what I eat, what I drink, exercising, not exercising, pain, strength, sleep, lack of sleep--all of these things I did not do to a body that belonged to me but a body that belonged to God. Slowly I began to respond to my body out of the Spirit and not out of my flesh. I began to realize that God could be glorified in my pain by how I reacted to the pain--whether I responded to it with complaint and pity-mongering or with hope and faith in God's healing power and provision.
I can tell you most assuredly that I do not live out that sacrifice everyday. There are many days when I live as if my body belonged totally to me (and some times to a food conglomerate of fast and overly-processed food). But climbing The Incline tonight, I was reminded of what an amazing thing our bodies are. They are capable of amazing feats. We can push our bodies to what our mind believes to be the absolute limit and discover that they are capable of much more. They are amazing creations, and I absolutely believe that a body fully sacrificed to the Lord brings honor both to God and to the person.