“Look out the window, Shirley,” my mother urged. “See that mountain? It’s Mt. Kilimanjaro.”
Even at my skeptical age of 12, I caught my breath. Rising serenely through the carpet of clouds on the left of our plane, was a majestic mountain peak, the first real mountain I had ever seen. The snow on its surface caught the rays of the sun and glittered, resembling jewels on the face of a royal crown.
It was one of those “Ah-hah!” moments in my life which I’ve never forgotten. To this day, I can remember the view as if the photograph was projected on the back of my eye forever.
Only many years later did I learn that Mt. Kilimanjaro, situated in Tanzania, East Africa, is often referred to as the Crown of Africa. It is the highest mountain in Africa as well as the highest freestanding mountain in the world (5,895 metres or 19,341 ft above sea level).
Although it is only 330 km from the equator, it is still capped in snow year round with ice glaciers.
Writer and speaker, Daniel Noll, when writing about his climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro makes some excellent suggestions for those preparing to climb: “Keep your head down if you need to, but don’t forget to look up,” he says.
Doesn’t that apply wonderfully to our day-to-day walk on this mountain we call Life? Sometimes we need to look down to make sure we are making wise decisions, taking the right steps, going in the correct direction. But we mustn’t forget to look up!
All around us is such beauty, perhaps rugged mountains like Kilimanjaro or other magnificent scenery. But apart from the beauty of nature, we are surrounded by so many lovely people whom we would miss, so many fascinating events we wouldn’t see, if we didn’t stop to look up.
“Look forward primarily, but occasionally look back to know where you’ve been and to appreciate the beauty of where you stand,” is another of Daniel Noll’s suggestions. The Bible puts it this way: “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” (Ps 23:6 ) We cannot see what is following us unless we sometimes stop and look back. We cannot fully appreciate the beauty of our lives if we don’t occasionally look back to where we’ve been.
I look back to 1997, when I was diagnosed with aggressive cancer. Then I look at myself today, and I give thanks for God’s goodness that has been with me all the way. And I look back at that scene captured through the window of the plane carrying me from Rhodesia to the UK, and I thank God for the amazing Crown of Africa.