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  • Katie Smith

Are you a Maintainer or Mountaineer?

Are you a maintenance personnel or a mountain climber? I'm a maintainer married to a mountaineer. It's kind of a tongue twister, but the discovery helped me understand the differences between my husband and myself and now some of our kids too. You may not completely fit in either shoe, but if it helps you see motives, perhaps it's worth trying on for size.

First, maintainers--we don't ever want anything becoming an extreme outlier. If we have to work extra hours due to backlog, our fists clench in frustration. Extra hours are only intended for special occasions, not catch up. Playing "catch up" is a dirty phrase. If we stay the course, never veering too far left or right, we maintain balance and our work thrives. Falling behind only increases our perceived pressure, which in turn increases our chances of quitting. Perfection is not the goal, but maintaining a well-oiled machine, helps protect our systems from shut down, and our emotions from extremes.

Mountain climbers, on the hand, thrive in extreme weather--when the heat is turned up or the pressure is ice-packed. They don't mind pulling all-nighters or becoming the underdog. Their work doesn't necessarily excel on a regular basis, even if it's complete or correct. But again, perfection is not the goal. Instead, when they want or need to shine, mountaineers work best just before the finish line. Catch up is their modus operandi. If a mountain climber is forced into maintaining a constant level of achievement, they begin to shut down and lose their drive altogether. They will accomplish their goals in their time--no one else's.

Regardless of which position you typically assume, there seems to be a theme among both--personal achievements. While achievements are not bad, and accomplishments help drive humans, many Christ-followers today have fallen into the trap of personal goal-orientation. Instead of God-orientation, we are grasping for tangible elements to measure our work in the church or justify our "next steps" towards spiritual progress. The Pilgrim's Progress was no different, nor were Jesus' first followers.

Paul explained that we keep comparing and boasting about our human efforts, (1 Corinthians 3:1-11), but the very nature of faith is it's invisible qualities. Knowing apologetics (bible validation), hermeneutics (bible interpretation), and eschatology (after life) may be worthy pastimes. Deconstruction, literary analysis and methodological modes of study are helpful and purposeful, but they can also disguise themselves as tangible faith rather than true faith.

In the same way that humans have always hungered for "knowledge," since the Garden of Eden and our bite from that very "knowledgable tree," we are still working to have "reasons" for everything. Every illness, every accident, every situation needs reasoning and resolution. We will even create fallible cause and effect orders to satisfy our curiosity. We are trying to eradicate the unknown, but faith, real faith that God designed, is being "sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not know" (Hebrews 11:1). God decides when to reveal and when to conceal because if we already have all the answers, we can assume the god title.

If you are focused on the "next steps" of your timeline in order to perfect your faith or find all the perfect modes of operation, stop, restart, and let God's Spirit direct your steps for a change. But if you've never taken any "next steps" perhaps the timelines exist to kick start your system so that you don't shut down or freeze from comfort. Falling behind, getting ahead, or merely maintaining are all comparative by nature. Our real motives should be for God to accomplish His work in our lives so that more people understand true faith, and less people see boxes to check.

I may function best without pressure, but I also don't fear the mountains in my future. Likewise, I may want to see others maintain better balance, but they may thrive pushing the limits. Either way, as we begin a new year, I pray for God's glory instead of my own... His direction, not mine. Where He leads, may I follow! I'll keep maintaining my mountain men until I scale new heights with them!

~ Maintaining mountaineers

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