I’m a seasoned ‘church camper.’ As a teenager, for at least a week each summer, I’d pile into a fifteen passenger van with sweaty boys and anxious girls and venture to the Colorado mountains for whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and torture … er, mountain biking.
Each night, after facing our fears and relying on God’s mercy to survive hormones, and crushes, and camp food, we’d hunker down to listen to sermons from a pastor underneath a picnic shelter with flames flickering behind him.
The bible is full of references to mountains. How we ought to look to them, how God moves them, how they melt in his presence, or shake in his glory. God speaks to people on mountain tops, bushes burn, internal battles are fought. Tectonic plates are holy ground.
Wise, college aged mentors would french braid my hair as I sat between their knees. I felt safe, loved, and seen. The mountains I was climbing in that season of my life involved grades, crushes, and college applications. All age appropriate, and yes, privileged. I’d have my mountain top experience, head back down the hill and return to normal life.
Ten years passed and I still hadn’t climbed all the way to the top of one of Colorado’s beckoning peaks.
This past weekend we rallied with our cousins to trek to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain. We picked an “easy” one. Never you mind that easy still means you’re climbing an f’in MOUNTAIN.
It was not an easy experience for me.
At the end of the meadow stretch, full of waving wildflowers, I could look up the steep trail and see people moving in front of me where I was headed. Like ants, we fell in line and moved slowly up, up, up.
“Our faith can move mountains” – Matthew 17:20
But could it move me?
We stopped every 200 yards to catch our breath. All the blogs told me this was a normal part of the process. I’d keep looking up, and see people ahead, and I’d ask, “how am I going to get up there?!”
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord – maker of heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121: 1-2
The answer was adjust my blinders. I had to focus on the ten feet in front of me, and then the next ten, and the next, to keep moving along. Any time I looked to the top of the peak, I’d falter. Mentally challenged and physically tired my cousin offered me his trekking pole so I could stop stumbling.
As we approached the summit, solid ground gave way to piles of boulders. Big rocks stacked over one another. Why would something so massive be made up of hundreds of moving parts?
The last 200 yards I was using my hands to pull myself up and over big chunks of stone. Why did God design mountains that way? Heavy, precariously balanced stones for us master?
I made it to the top. I sat and caught my breath and inhaled God’s fresh air. He whispered to me, “look how far you’ve come.”
In this season, my mountains have matured. Accepting the loss of a parent is not meant for almost thirty year olds. Finding employment after job loss. Navigating marriage. Coming into our own skins with confidence and learning how to soothe broken hearts. Those were bigger boulders found when a previous foundation fell apart – the aftermath forming new piles in our way. Rubble. Crumbly, heavy, hurting chunks of stone.
We’ve moved these last two and a half years, holding hands, five feet at a time up, up, and up to this new summit. The view is beautiful, holy, and aching. For Dad is closer to the heavens than back at the trailhead, and he wasn’t waiting for me to return at home.
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken.” – Isaiah 54:10
It’s peaceful up there on piles of stone. Hearts soar and God speaks.
And then you have to come down.
Spiritually, I’m afraid of coming down for I know new mountains will form for me to climb. I don’t want to hurt nor do I want to find new footing.
We want the summit. We don’t want the work. Unfortunately, beautifully, you can’t have one without the other.
As we trekked down and our knees screamed, God brought this song back to me from camp years ago.
The artist wrote this song from a mountain near where we spread Dad’s ashes. Funny how our stories connect. Funny how boulders mix with pebbles to create beautiful trails racking our lungs and pounding our hearts.
I’m offering up my broken cup. Keep climbing up. Willing to come down.
Keep stepping the next ten beautiful feet in front of me.