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As a teenager I spent two years living in Butte, Montana. Butte is nestled high in the Rocky Mountains in a small valley which rests directly in the shadow of the great continental divide; a massive mountain range which stretches from New Mexico through Colorado -- where its highest peaks reside -- through Wyoming, Idaho, and finally passing through and ending in Montana.

Easily seen from most parts of the Butte Valley is an immense statue which stands 90 feet tall at an elevation of more than 3,500 feet above the city of Butte, which lies in the valley below. The statue is more than 8,000 feet above sea level. It is a beautiful statue named "The Lady of Rockies" which is in the likeness of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The statue was constructed in honor of women and especially mothers everywhere. It was a nondenominational venture supported entirely by donations. It is a beautiful statue and a great source of pride for the local people.

One particular summer, my cousin, Lee, and I decided that we were going to walk up the mountain and touch that statue. He had only moved to Butte a couple of months before this time, along with his mother and younger sister. I had lived in Butte for a year, but I had never given much thought to touching the statue. So we decided to ask his mother to drop us off as the base of the mountain in about as straight a shot to the top as we could assess very scientifically, with our index fingers and a straight line drawn in the air to what looked liked a good spot.

She dropped us off fairly early the following morning with our backpacks loaded lightly, carrying a few bottles of water and a couple of sandwiches, we set out to climb the continental divide; a task which no doubt would take not more than a few hours and require little more than the breaking of a light sweat. As it turns out the terrain, which appears from the valley floor below, to be relatively flat is in fact riddled with crevices, cliffs, and giant rocky outcroppings of every variety. It took us nearly as long to get half way up as we had planned to be on the mountain altogether! At one point in our adventure we both had the most ominous feeling that something was following us up the mountain. Convinced that it was a mountain lion we gathered large walking sticks to defend ourselves.

After several hours of climbing, we finally reached near the top of the mountain. Through the trees we could see the gleaming white of the statue. Finally we came through the trees and stood near the base of the statue.

Very much to our surprise, however, what stood in front of us was a giant field of immense boulders which littered an area of several hundred feet beneath the statue. From the valley below it appears as thought the statue has a field of rocky debris beneath it. This is partially true. In fact, these boulders are the remains of the work of blasting the peak of the mountain apart to clear space for the statue and create a flat pedestal upon which the statue stands.

Not to be deterred, we climbed those boulders as well. Finally we were less than 40 or 50 feet from the statue but we were not to touch the statue that day, or any other for that matter, because the base of the statue is hewn flat and the rocky outcroppings around the statue block travel of foot completely. Despite all of our efforts, we were thwarted by that mountain and did not reach our goal. We left in defeat, trudged down the mountain, and made our way to the waiting spot where Lee’s mother, my aunt was to pick us up.

After we arrived home, one my uncles asked us what we had been doing all day. After we told him of our adventure for the day, he informed us that we should have asked him to drop us off rather than my aunt because, unlike my aunt who had only lived in Butte a few months, he would have known to take us just a few miles from where we had been dropped off to a smooth road that leads right up to the statue from the back side of the mountain. As it turns out, we could have touched the statue that day by way of a walk up a road or even a ride all the way to the statue.

While there are perhaps many lessons which could be learned from this story, I have always considered this a good example of the pitfalls of pride. Lee and I were strong, we were young, we were both athletic and in incredibly great shape, and were also both filled with pride. Rather than being humble enough to know that someone might have had helpful information about mountain in front of us, we set out to climb this huge mountain our way. At the very least, it would have been helpful to ask someone for a map! I am reminded of the words of Proverbs 12:15 "The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." (NIV)

Very often pride clouds our judgment. When faced with the mountains in this life, rather than humbly asking others for help we rush off to disaster, heartache, or simply much unnecessary and fruitless work. Whereas pride is an obstacle to fruitfulness, growth, and success, humility is the smooth road to the top. At the end of the pathway of pride, no matter how successful we may be, we find a sheer cliff, impeding our ultimate progress, but the pathway of humility is laden with the greatest treasure of all: knowing God.

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