Living on a Hill

The top of Magnolia bluff is about 300 feet above the main road that runs in front of the community, and when you’re returning home there’s no way to avoid climbing the hill.

July_2008_news01_thumb You can’t see it in this picture, but just where the road curves off to right near the top there’s a final push, where the grade hits about 20% for a couple of blocks. Last week a buddy and I tried biking the hill, climbing straight up. We got about 40 yards shy of the top before the grade just killed us, making our legs feel like jello while we nearly fell over on our bikes from a complete lack of forward momentum. Alas, we had no domestiques on hand to ride behind us and literally push us up the rest of the way, so my friend and I gave up and walked to the top. There are few feelings of weakness and misery that can match those felt while having to push your racing bike up a hill! Despite all this pain and exertion, I have to get to the top of that hill every day. It’s my home, and it’s where I want to be. The best parts of my day await me at the top of the hill. Quitting or staying at the bottom aren’t really options for me.

Fortunately for me and my poor legs, there are more roads than one that lead to the top. The one I typically follow winds its way around the hill, coiling almost entirely around it as it climbs the 300 feet. Meandering up a nice, gentle 6% grade is far easier on my ITB than hammering up the wall. At times, it almost seems pleasurable.

In case the obviousness of the parable hasn’t already manifested itself to you…

The Kingdom of God is our city on a hill that cannot be hid, nor moved. It is our ultimate goal and destination and home, and there is no way to it but up.


  1. I sure don’t miss the hills in Seattle at all. Especially when it snowed. Nightmare.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    Even 6% doesn’t sound like a picnic. You have my undying respect!

  3. What, there are many paths up the mountain?!

  4. Ronan, Magnolia is a fairly ecumenical hill, as hills go.

  5. Ok. How about likening the church to all of the engineers and construction workers who made your easy ride possible. If we follow the path the church has laid out, we don’t need to work nearly so hard!

  6. Steve Evans says:

    True words, Noray. Sometimes we make our paths harder for ourselves, too?

  7. Tangential remark:
    I love America and all (see recent post), but what’s with the practice of hanging wire everywhere? America – bury your cables!

  8. Perhaps certain approaches to the gospel are like marking a path straight up the hill, rather than taking a different way around the back. Henry Eyring once said of Joseph Fielding Smith (referring to their different understandings of certain doctrines):

    I would say that I sustained Brother Smith as my Church leader one hundred percent. I think he was a great man. He had a different background and training on this issue. Maybe he was right. I think he was right on most things and if you followed him, he would get you into the Celestial Kingdom — maybe the hard way, but he would get you there. (Edward W. Kimball, “A Dialogue With Henry Eyring,” Dialogue 8 [Autumn/Winter 1973])

  9. Kevin K says:

    Ahhh – the hills of Seattle. They let the slightest flurry shut down traffic like a Wisconsin blizzard.

    I live over in Woodinville, but I think my son (Michael Kelly) is in your ward.

  10. Ronan, # 7,

    With all due respect to Steve and Aaron’s choice of habitat, those of us on the Eastside here actually have buried lines, even fiber, as opposed to that backwards, technologically lacking Magnolia.

    Just as Steve says that he can take the 20% grade or the 6% grade, all the grades for wire over here are 6% or less.

  11. More on topic, I’ve mentioned before that my personal view of the “straight and narrow path” is that it is indeed straight, narrow, steep, filled with boulders, fallen trees and other obstacles, and lined with many brightly lit well maintained off-ramps.

  12. Aaron Brown says:

    Alas, my Saab barely makes it up that hill. To the chagrin of whoever’s driving behind me. It sucks, so I often drive around. There are less direct routes to the Kingdom of God Steve, as you say, and so I often take the scenic route.


  13. Yet Another John says:

    The flip side: The descent from the Kingdom can be slow and gradual or it can be rather precipitous.

    Especially if your brakes fail.

  14. Steve, thanks for another great contribution to the literature on cycling and the Gospel.

  15. Steve – You could just do like Nephi – “And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done.” (Helaman 10:9) :)

    In seriousness, though, isn’t the Kingdom of God an earthly organization (D&C 65) that will eventually become the Kingdom of Heaven? Semantics, probably, but I think an important disctinction. With God being called the Most High God, possibly the Kingdom of God helps us climb the mountain overcoming Dante’s ‘Terraces of Purgatory’ as it were, while the Kingdom of Heaven allows us into the outer realms of the Celestial Paradise? Our own climb is symbolic of our mastery of self with the reward being something greater than we can achieve on our own.

  16. Dan — anything to further the estimable canon along.

    AB- I’ve been in your Saab, no question it cannot make that hill!

    Thinking about quicker roads to the top of the hill — this is probably where my little story breaks down. Christ is The Way, so really when we talk about alternative ways to the Kingdom I think we need to be clear that there is, in at least one sense, just one way to go.

  17. Kevin K, I think your (incredibly young) son just got called into our bishopric! Best of luck to him.

  18. I’m on the scenic, slower path. Over here on the east side, all our cables are burried.

  19. I like this, Steve, especially the idea of multiple roads with only one guide. That’s one that resonates, and it opens up all kinds of applications that I believe describe Mormonism’s unique theology quite well. I’ll have to think about it some more.

    I also really like the Eyring quote in #8. There are those who can climb a hill like Lance Armstrong, and there are others like me who need to climb the entire hill on foot. The problem arises when those who climb faster or slower can’t accept those who climb at a different speed – when they insist that all climb at their speed and using their climbing methods. I just hope we all recognize that our different paces and climbing methods are fine as long as we are climbing – or even climbing again no matter how far and fast we fall. I also hope we all allow our own pace and method to vary at different points throughout the climb.

  20. but coasting down the hill is so much fun!

  21. Hills. Ugh.

  22. Brad Hawkins says:

    Uh, Steve, what part of this hill do you live on again? Does your photo have a pan function?

    I didn’t know the railroad line climbs so steadily!

  23. Brad Hawkins says:

    Oh, to clarify, Pierson loves trains and he is very lucky that his house is so close to the trains in the foreground!

    Here is the question I have: If you merely select easier gear ratios, any hill can be made easier; not flat, just easier. However more pedal revolutions are required to arrive at the top of that (ahem, daily) hill. No doubt pride gets in the way when selecting one’s spiritual gear ratios. For that hill, I prefer a ratio of less than 1:!. You my friend, have for some reason chosen a much harder path, should that indeed be your choice.

  24. Brad, you’re ruining my metaphor! I still have to climb basically to the top in order to get over to my house, man! But yes. Attention readers: I do not actually live at the top of the hill pictured, but past it a ways.

  25. Interesting question re: gear ratios and pride. I’ll have to think about that one, because I am sure there’s something pretty profound to it. Blessed are they who have no shame in riding a triple crankset.

  26. Brad Hawkins says:

    It’s true that Jesus didn’t need first hand knowledge to place his parables, but I don’t think he ever placed himself among the ten virgins, nor as master, nor servant, lest the seed of truth be obscured by trifles.

  27. Brad Hawkins says:

    Indeed, with the help of Government Way are all great endeavors accomplished, even getting home.

    Parable of the Triple? I’m looking for a Quad for some of my bikes! For verily, at times, I too have been laid low.

  28. I just moved to Seattle and I am loving the climbs; I’ll have to check yours out!

    Nice metaphor, by the way, but of course the most important part of your post is the talk of cycling. {smile}

  29. Awesome, Brian! Let’s get together for a ride sometime. I’ll drop you an email.

  30. My hill is so steep for so long I don’t dare bike it, not up, not down. hmmm.

  31. Thomas Parkin says:

    Seattle is Mystery Babylon.


  32. Move House!!

  33. In 1979, six the Seattle First Ward deacons quorum as a challenge biked up Dravus Hill. I made it as far as 24th Ave W. before I died. I don’t think anyone made it all the way but when we all re-grouped at the Prespaterian Church on the corner of 28th, we decided that it was well worth the effort. We vowed to do it again someday. I moved away shortly and lost touch with everyone. I have no idea if those boys ever made it to the top.

  34. You know what would help you get all the way up the direct route?

    A properly loaded iPod. Both ears.

  35. Steve Evans says:

    Nice try dug.

  36. You know what would help you get all the way up the direct route?

    A car?

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