Mount Rushmore (and becoming a face that lasts)

Meet the guys. George, Thomas, Teddy, and Abe. The original pep boys. They hang out on Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills outside of Rapid City, South Dakota. They’ve been there since 1941, looking out over the nearly 3 million visitors that travel to see them each year.

It had always been a desire of mine to visit this well-known national park. So last year when my wife and I were west of the Mississippi River for a wedding of some good friends of ours, we decided to do some sight-seeing in the western part of the United States. And Mount Rushmore was one of the places we got to visit. There are few tourist-type things that have ever lived up to the excitement that I felt leading up to seeing them. But Mount Rushmore exceeded my expectations. It was an impressive and moving sight to see the 6-story faces of some of the heroes of our country, forever immortalized in granite for their contributions to liberty and justice for all.

It got me thinking…

Climbing figurative mountains is a challenging and necessary part of our lives. But it’s possible that just getting to the top of the mountain is not the pinnacle of existence. Perhaps there’s something greater than just scaling the figurative mountains in our lives.

Maybe we can become the mountain.

In other words, as we are navigating the long and often treacherous paths that our own personal mountain consists of, we can live our lives in such a way (and make such an indelible and positive impact) that our face becomes a guiding and lasting image in the life of another person. Think about it. Who are the people who have meant the most to you in your life? What faces come to mind?

You’ve got your own personal Mount Rushmore. And so do I.

The faces on mine include Bono (from U2), Dan Marino, John Smoltz, and Carrie Underwood (what? She’s an extremely talented singer). Not really. While I admire those people, the faces on my personal Mount Rushmore are much more meaningful to me: my grandfather, my parents, and my friend Sonja Jane Larson.

And so we need to ask ourselves…why would we ever settle for just climbing the mountain when we can become the mountain?

The obvious answer is that climbing the mountain is difficult enough. We’ve got our hands full just trying to make it to the top without worrying about what long-term effects, if any, our actions will have on the lives of others. There are so many issues that can trip us up…

  • Defeat. George Washington is known and revered as the Father of our country. Before he became the first President, he served as commander in chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He was repeatedly out-maneuvered by his British counterparts and was defeated on numerous occasions, including losing New York City in 1776.
  • Mistakes. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Constitution and, as the 3rd president of our country, oversaw it’s expansion with the Louisiana Purchase. He is also responsible for the Embargo Act of 1807, a measure which was intended to protect the U.S. and her interests, but instead helped cause the War of 1812.
  • Weakness. Teddy Roosevelt is remembered for his rugged strength and masculinity. He’s on the short list in the discussion of “greatest presidents ever.” But early in his life, he struggled with physical weakness due to chronic illness.
  • Failure. Abraham Lincoln navigated our country through the most difficult and darkest time in its history. Prior to his becoming the 16th President, he lost in at least 7 elections for national office, failed in business, and had a nervous breakdown.

Ultimately, each of them had enough strength, resolve, character, determination, talent, goodness, and virtue to overcome the setbacks they faced on the way to the summit. They climbed the mountain. Then they became the mountain. Their life, legacy, and impact have stood the test of time. They rocked. And now they are the rock.

And so I have this mini Mount Rushmore on my desk from the gift shop near the monument. It reminds me that on my journey up the mountain, the summit is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to live my life with strength, resolve, character, determination, goodness, and virtue. Ensuring that in spite of my weaknesses, defeats, failures, and mistakes my life will be remembered by my children, family, and friends…and my face will be a lasting and guiding image in their lives.

Tomorrow: The stuff on my desk, part 6- the goofy sheep (and what happens when we go astray)

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