Going away to the mountains is always a good idea; especially if you want to interrogate God about what you are supposed to do with your life, while also letting him know you aren’t particularly pleased with its current particulars. I’m a bit befuddled in soul right now, so my mom, wisely, sent me packing for a night away at a nearby cabin. It had a lovely porch swing and an airy bedroom and a steady supply of coffee. Set right at the feet of great, jutting boulders, in the foothill valleys that rise to flank Pikes Peak, my cabin was perfected for meditation, prayer, and… climbing. I don’t know what possessed me, but instead of relaxing, I spent half my time acting like a mountain goat. In my heart and feet was an insatiable desire and a restless energy that set me on a series of long scrambles up red, muddy hillsides, out onto craggy, storm-shadowed cliff edges in quest of, well, I wasn’t sure what. A deeper drink of storm sky. A wider view. An end to my fitful thoughts.
Halfway up a canyon edge this morning, with thunder grumbling below, and an unexpected downpour soaking my uncovered head, I decided that this climbing was a metaphor of my life. More than a metaphor- my heart feels that this summer has been a literal lung taxing, foot bruising scramble after God; his presence in my workaday life, his love amidst my fallenness, his will for me in a world of unlimited options and frightening isolation. I plopped myself down under some scrubby pines, embraced the fact that I was going to come out of this muddy, and asked God point blank how much longer I was going to have to climb. The answer, surprisingly, was immediate. It was in question form, of course, but clear as dawn: it all depended on what I chose to accept.
Until now, I realized, my life has been a mountain life. The road of my soul has been up cliff edges of prayer and crags of stony conviction. From birth (good grief), my parent’s choices of ministry, missions, and their decision to stand against culture in many areas, has set me on a scramble up wild trails and roads roughened by lack of human travel. Being a writer makes me alone. Being an idealist sets me smack in the wilderness. Every part of my life and thought seems tailor made to cast me into a soulish wilderness. I was born to the mountain life. In all my years, God has never set, formed, or offered a valley life for my days.
But oh, how I have begged for the valley. How I have pleaded for rest, for ease, for relief from the dramatically beautiful, yet utterly demanding road that runs into the mountain ways of my God. I am tired of being lonely, of trying hard, of being misunderstood, of hurting. Loving God seems always to lead up mountainsides. Maybe that’s it. Perhaps we are all called to this mad mountain dash when we follow God. All I know is, it’s a body and soul and heart and breath demanding scramble. We all eventually come to exhaustion, as I have of late, and when we do, God gives us a choice. He really does. I believe we can reject the mountains and run for the grasslands. I’ve wanted that, even prayed about it, prayed it would be God’s way for me. But it came to me this morning that perhaps my prayers have been blind. Do I truly only want the valley life?
I have prayed for ease because I was weary, but perhaps what I should pray for is vigor. Not release from struggle, but a newborn strength that will help me to bear the wilds of this wondrous road. Not escape, but a heart sparked by hope, a will empowered by supernatural courage. Who can walk to the high and holy places of God? Those who rise on the strength of His own wings. Who can traverse impossible ways with him, as Abraham and David, Joshua and Jesus? Those who pray not for escape, but for zeal, for Spirit’s breath in their lungs, and Spirit fire kindling their hearts to endure. We can run for the valley and God will still love us, but I decided last night that I don’t want to. With David, I want to believe that:
God girds me with strength and makes my way blameless.
He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me on my high places.
He trains my hands for battle so that I can bend a bow of bronze.
His right hand upholds me. His gentleness makes me great.
He enlarges my steps under me. My feet have not slipped. (Psalm 18)
Lord help me. Mountain life, here I come.