Slowly Dying on Mt. Kilimanjaro (A True Story)

Slowly Dying on Mt. Kilimanjaro (A True Story)

During my sophomore year of college I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with my young adults pastor and a small team. I trained like a maniac. I was in the best shape of my life. And I was in my early twenties, so I pretty much felt invincible.

I remember seeing the snow-capped mountain for the first time out the window of our prop plane. A team member admitted to me that he was afraid he wouldn’t make it. I tried to be sympathetic, but deep inside I kind of thought he was pathetic.

About four days into the hike it hit me – Acute Mountain Sickness. I started vomiting uncontrollably. I was shivering, dehydrated and weak. The guide told me I was in serious danger. My body was shutting down. So, late in the afternoon we started hiking back down. It was miserable. I’d walk a few steps then dry heave. The guides patiently waited for me. I couldn’t hold anything down, not even water.

The following day, late in the evening, after twelve hours of hiking we made it back to the lodge. I felt completely defeated. I secretly hoped the rest of the team wouldn’t make it. But they did.

At the lodge everyone knew my story. So when I was reunited with my team I felt like such a loser. Everyone congratulated my friends. They patted me on the back, “Next time little buddy. Next time.”

Needless to say, that was a humbling experience. I’ve kept that in the back of my mind ever since. It reminds me of something:

You can be completely prepared and still fail.

There are some things that, through no fault of your own, just don’t work out. You were prepared, did your homework and tried your hardest, but it just didn’t happen. I’ve started to look at those times as sheer grace. They are moments for us to embrace humility. Humility will get you much further than pride in the long run. Mostly because, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

My dad once advised me, “You can humble yourself or you can let God do it for you. Doing it yourself is much less painful.” It’s a constant fight. I want to feel good about myself. But humility isn’t thinking less of yourself – it’s thinking of yourself less. It’s having a right view of who you are and who you aren’t.

So here’s my suggestion. Do whatever it takes to stay humble. Kill your pride. Pride can Kiliman. (Sorry, just had to do it.) But if you’ll stay humble, God can do things you never imagined in your life.


Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped… but humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8


P.S. A dozen years later I finally made it to the top of Kilimanjaro with my friend Bob Goff and a great team around me.