“a wise man will climb Mt. Fuji once, a fool will climb it again.”
Testimony by Moriah Miller
Near the beginning of the semester, many of the EAIs* and some other friends climbed Mt. Fuji, and man, was it an incredible experience. Afterwards, I was reading in Matthew, and the trip gave me a new perspective that I want to share with you.
Matthew 7:14 says, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Climbing Fuji was not on my Japan bucket list when I arrived, but someone brought it up and I thought, “sure! Why not?” I have experience with mountain climbing and expected it to be easy. I could not have been more wrong. My group of 8 started hiking around 9 pm in order to complete the 8-kilometre hike to the summit by sunrise. It was freezing. We had all packed more warm gear than we thought we needed and we still didn’t have enough. Towards the summit, the wind was blowing so hard that I was afraid my exhausted self was going to be blown off the side of the mountain. Progress was much slower than we thought, and we constantly had to stop to rest, warm up, eat. Some of us needed more rest than others, and tension grew as we had to decide whether to wait, keep going, or split up. Remember, this was at the beginning of the semester so we didn’t know each other that well yet. We weren’t sure if we liked each other, let alone if we trusted each other to get us up 3,776 meters safely. Whether or not we were friends, though we wanted to stay together because we knew we needed each other. We did stay together for most of the hike, but the trail became so difficult and crowded right before the top that we became separated. It was so cold near the summit that I wrapped my face in a blanket and kept my head down as I inched upwards. I just relied on the person in front of me to know where to step. I remember realizing at one point that I didn’t know anyone around me, but I felt a strange sense of companionship with everyone because we were all suffering together and we were also all going to witness a glorious sunrise together.
And glorious it was. Even though the summit was extremely cold and the journey difficult, the sunrise and the sheer accomplishment of the journey made it all worth it. It’s pretty easy to see the allegory between Matthew 7:14 and our Fuji journey; it was a narrow and difficult path, much like Christ promises our lives as Christians will be. However, what we really struck me about reading this passage after hiking Fuji was that not only is the path and the Christian life difficult for me, but it’s difficult for everyone who is on it, and we cannot make it on our own. We have to depend not only on Christ but on one another, even though we are all struggling and sometimes might not like each other very much. I also realized that we will probably struggle in different ways. On Fuji, some of us were exhausted, some were freezing, and some were running low on motivation. I think we tend to want to be around only the people who have the same struggles as ourselves because their empathy makes it seem less difficult. However, it is important to be with people who are different than you! If we had split up into a faster and slower group, then some of us would not have made it to the top on time for the sunrise and some of us would have made it too soon, and to wait in the freezing darkness longer than necessary. Should we have left those who were struggling behind? Of course not! We can encourage each other to keep going, and we can call each other out when we’re blind to our sin, but we should do everything we can to urge one another on. Similarly, we should not separate ourselves from other believers because we struggle with different things or because we don’t get along. I believe there is a time and place for severing ties, but my point is that we shouldn’t sever ties just because they are struggling.
I know that being a Christian in Japan is difficult. There are so few Christians here, and so the path is not only difficult and narrow but lonely. And there is so, so much work to be done. I think that dependence and grace between struggling believers is especially important here. TCU is such a gift that we are able to have Christian community here, and that we can have a community with people who are different than us. We can bear each other’s burdens, and we can glorify Christ in unity. Like John 17:22 says, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
So, Mt. Fuji was challenging and reminded me that we should not be surprised when Christians struggle and we should help each other along the difficult path. In conclusion, I want to share one of the problems with my analogy. There’s a proverb that says, “a wise man will climb Mt. Fuji once, a fool will climb it again.” Fuji was amazing, but I’m never going to climb it again. However, the richness of the love of Christ and the glory of the Lord which we will experience in full in Heaven is worth far more than a sunrise and the difficult path is the one we would choose over and over again in order to experience Heaven if we were given the chance. And let us not forget the debt that Christ paid to make this possible; he knew that we would struggle and fail, but his death and resurrection proclaim us justified. Even though we know this life will be difficult, we also know that one day we will stand beside one another as every tribe, tongue, and language, praise God in His unfathomable glory.
On Mt. Fuji
*EAI – East Asia Institute – Short-term program at TCU