What is the greatest gift you ever received?
Or the best day of your entire life?
You can almost taste your memories sometimes. You recall exactly where you were, what was happening, who was there, etc. These are precious memories that often bring tears to our eyes. And they are so important to our mental and emotional health to remember.
I call these memories peaks. These are the times in which we feel loved and supported. They give us confidence and encouragement and a sense of achievement or accomplishment. In short, they satisfy our need for both significance and security.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just stay at these peaks all our life? Looking down from a mountain top is a great view. But life is more than peaks. It is valleys as well.
There have been days in our lives that were difficult. Days or weeks in which there was no hope. Illness strife, disaster, death, or conflict happen just as much as peaks. It seems to many that life is more riddled with curses than blessings.
There is some Biblical truth in that, when we remember the story of how Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden after they sinned. This story from peak to valley and the consequences of struggle in our lives is found in Genesis 3.
There are only a few people for whom life is not a struggle. I am not one of them. And there are some for whom live is nothing but a struggle. I am not one of them, either. I am, like most of us, somewhere in the middle.
And that is where our living usually takes place.
It is what we do in our day-to-day times that prepares us for both the peaks and the valleys. How many times have we come across some arrogant fool experiencing a mountain top experience. They act like they did all by themselves and that they are on the mountain top because they earned it or deserved it.
Even when there is some truth to this statement, it doesn’t mean they are any better than anybody else. At any given time, there are countless people on mountain tops. At any given time, there are countless people in valleys. Some mountain tops are higher than others, and some valleys are deeper than others. And at any moment, the mountain can come crashing down, and the valley people can be lifted up.
If all we focus on is the valleys and the peaks, we miss the real point of living.
And that is what we do each and every day. Sesame Street, a children’s’ television program, had a segment with a song called “People in your Neighbourhood.” It asked: “Who are the people in your neighbourhood? The people you meet each day.”
That is where life is truly lived. It is lived in how we treat our neighbors. Before and after we celebrate our victories, it is where we live. Before, during, and after disaster strikes us, it is where we live. We are the neighbors that song sings about.
Even elite athletes live in neighborhoods. So too do hungry children, addicts, poor and hurting people. In some neighborhoods, the hurts are more hidden than in others. But in every neighborhood, there are some people whose valleys are deep and long and lonely. There are some people trying o climb towards there mountain top experience. And there are people just living their lives.
The question for us is what kind of neighbor are we.
Jesus had some advice for us about neighbors. In Luke 10, Jesus is chatting with an expert in the law who correctly interprets the law as loving God with all you have and loving your neighbour as yourself. But then this man asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10: 28).
Jesus then tells the parable of the Good Samaritan and asks the man who was the good neighbour to the beaten and robbed victim of thugs. The man’s answer: “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus says “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10: 37)
The idea here is that if our neighbor, who Jesus says is everyone we meet, is celebrating a good thing, celebrate with them. If they are hurting, then get into their valley and comfort them.
Then you will be the one who shows mercy. You will be the hero of your own neighborhood Good Samaritan story.
Andy Becker is a pastor, retired counsellor and former CEO of a Hospice organization. Currently, his wife, Stella and Andy, lead both Lighthouse ministries and Bread of Life ministries in North Central Regina, one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.