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Spiritual Training Cycle: Presence (week 13/13)

Nims Purja may be the most confident man you’ve never heard of. At least I hadn’t heard his name before, that is until I watched his documentary on Netflix, 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible (view the trailer here). Nims had a dream to put the mountaineers of Nepal firmly on the list of well-respected great climbers. And who wouldn’t think they are? Better known by their ethnic title “Sherpa,” these are the dudes taking climber after climber up and down the most treacherous mountains in the world. His plan? To summit the 14 peaks known as the eight thousanders, which sit in a class by themselves all being over 8,000 meters high (that’s over 26,000 feet for the non-metric folk). His timetable? Seven months. No one believed he could do it. In fact, he named his endeavor Project Possible 14/7 just to show the world where he stood on it. The result? Well, you’ll have to watch the documentary to see the whole story but suffice it to say Nims Purja opened my eyes to a whole new set of possibilities.

Physically speaking, humanity has demonstrated many things are possible, even when no one else thought they were. Take the four-minute barrier for the one-mile run. For decades runners chased what seemed an impossible feat. In fact, experts said the only way it would be possible was for perfect weather conditions, a hard track, no wind, and a stadium full of fans. In 1954, Roger Bannister stepped onto a cold wet track in front of a small crowd and clocked the first sub four-minute mile. Since then, more than 1,000 runners have achieved what most thought once was impossible. Bannister, like Purja, opened the world to new possibilities.

But certainly, humanity falls short as well. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of the possibilities that one day racial equality would ring out across this country. Desegregation was a step, but I don’t think anyone would say we’ve achieved this possibility. In fact, I would say we may be even further away, and some might call it impossible. Take the rise of social media. In a 2021 survey, 82% of Americans and 53% of the world had social media accounts. Over 4 billion “connected” people. Yet the number one rising epidemic facing most large countries is loneliness. In both Japan and the UK, they’ve appointed government officials to tackle this issue, including a minister of loneliness.

Ok, so what do Nims Purja or Roger Bannister have to do with the social and moral struggles facing the world? They remind us that there are still possibilities! And with God, all things are possible. It’s possible to have courage when facing a tough diagnosis or other life situation. It’s possible to have gratitude for the simple things, like getting to exercise or access to clean water. It’s possible to have compassion for others when you realize you have no idea what they’re going through. God CAN change and WILL change the world, but you get to play a role too. That is, if you can see the possibilities.

Questions for Reflection:

What possibility do you want God to do in your life right now?

Which possibility in the Scripture reading seemed the most impossible to you and why?

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