I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago. I attended college in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Outside of the ‘burbs I lived 10 years in southern IL, which was essentially the middle of a cornfield. I tell you this so that you can understand that until we moved to the mountains, I am not exaggerating when I say I was surrounded by FLAT lands.
Like most people I grew up with, I was fortunate enough to occasionally take a trip to the mountains. Young Life camp as a student staffer, youth group conferences, family vacations, etc. There were a few things all of these trips had in common. 1) They were fun and relaxing 2) Great memories were created there 3) the Lord revealed Himself to me in a new way sending me home with renewed faith and hope.
For many reasons including the reasons above, when my husband accepted a job coaching football 12 hours from our closest immediate family members, asking our boys to leave the only home and friends they had known in their short lives, I.WAS.THRILLED. It took 6 weeks to pack up the house we had lived in for 10 years and move 9 hours east, I worked hard at that time to make sure my boys had some closure, and at the same time, my heart had moved on, and I was ready for a mountain adventure.
Fast forward 6 months, and you can imagine my surprise to realize I the mountains were not all I had anticipated they would be. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE our life. I love our team, I love our friends, I love who God has placed in our lives. At the same time, unlike all my previous mountain experiences of fun and spiritual highs…life wasn’t a vacation.
God has worked on my heart deeply the last 1.5 years in the mountains. Unlike my weeks at Young Life camp, this time around God has used our time together in the mountains to first point out some wounds that had taken root in my heart deeper than I had realized. Also, unlike my previous spurts of energy from the mountains, 6 months in, I was completely drained. What I have learned, and what I will continue to write about as it becomes clearer to me is that God uses mountains both physical and metaphorical to reveal more of who He is to us, and to draw us to Him.
Habakkuk 3:18-19New American Standard Bible (NASB)
18 Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19 The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
net.bible.org commentary says “Even though everything would get worse in Judah, Habakkuk determined to praise Yahweh and to rejoice in the God who would save him (cf. Ps. 18:46; 25:5). The prophet pictured the worst of circumstances by using a variety of rural metaphors drawn from plant and animal life. Taken together they have the effect of saying that no matter what bad thing may happen, Habakkuk, and hopefully all Israel, would trust God. Even though the prophet felt weak physically, he was strong in faith spiritually. Thus he would live (cf. 2:4). Many of these bad conditions did mark Judah when the Babylonians overthrew the nation (cf. Lam. 2:12, 20; 4:4, 9-10;5:17-18).”
So here is my new truth about the mountains:
1) Mountain peeks are not meant to stay on. Mountain peaks are high and majestic, but also empty. A great view only helps so much, eventually you need to head back down for supplies. Second, they are isolating. Moses was brought to the top of the mountain to commune with God. It was an honor and I guarantee he regretted none of it. At the same time, he eventually needed to head back down and relay all he had learned to the Israelites.
2) Mountains are hard to climb regardless of how good of shape you are in. People who live in lower elevations will get out of breath more quickly until they acclimate to the altitude. Regardless of how long or much your body adjusts, climbing is hard. It works muscles not usually called upon. It forces your lungs to work with less oxygen. You have to fight and work for the mountain peak regardless of how long you dwell on the ridge.
3) Mountain peaks are more frequently and easily reached with the help of a buddy.
4) Mountains are one place where God places us or draws us to Him in our walk in order to help us see and hear Him more clearly.
5) Mountains give us hinds’ feet
Habakkuk knew this to be true about mountains, the image of a deer exhausted, but able to maneuver the mountain ridge reminds us that no journey is completely smooth, and yet we are empowered to conquer the journey because He has created us to do so.
In the 1.5 years of God pressing into me, stretching me and helping me adjust to the ridge He has placed me on I have not always been a willing participant. I have dragged this process out with my stubbornness and back peddled out of fear. I have isolated myself and wallowed. Just like Much-Afraid in Hinds Feet On High Places I have questioned the path my Shephard has called me to walk.
” ‘Much-Afraid,’ said the shepherd again, ‘tell me, what is the matter. Why were you so fearful?’ ‘It is the way you have chosen for me to go,’ she whispered. ‘It looks so dreadful, Shepherd so impossible. I turn giddy and faint whenever I look at it. The roes and hinds can go there, but the are not limping, crippled, or cowardly like me.’ ‘But, Much-Afraid, what did I promise you in the Valley of Humiliation?’ asked the Shepherd with a smile. Much-Afraid looked started, and the blood rushed into her cheeks and ebbed her again, leaving them as white as before. ‘You said,’ she began and broke off and then began again. ‘O Shepherd, you said you would make my feet like hinds’ feet and set me upon mine High Places.’ ‘Well,’ he answered cheerily, ‘the only way to develop hinds’ feet is to go by the paths which the hinds use–like this one.’ Much-Afraid trembled and looked at him shamefacedly. ‘I don’t think–I want–hinds’ feet, if it means I have to go on a path like that,’ she said slowly and painfully.
The Shepherd was a very surprising person. Instead of looking either disappointed or disapproving, he actually laughed again. ‘Oh, yes you do,’ he said cheerfully. ‘I know you better than you know yourself, Much-Afraid. You want it very much indeed, and I promise you these hinds’ feet. Indeed, I have brought you on purpose to this back side of the desert, where the mountains are particularly steep and where there are no paths but the tracks of the deer and of the mountain goats for you to follow, that the promise may be fulfilled.”
We all climb our own mountains at different times in our lives. Sometimes those paths will be easy and beautiful and short-lived. Other times, they will be the thing that makes or breaks us. Press on my friend, I promise even the hard path that seems so wrong, if the Shepherd is leading, it is the right one.
Mountains are beautiful. Every morning I wake up in awe of the beauty I am surrounded by. They are always changing as the seasons bring different weather, growth, death, and rebirth. The last 1.5 years haven’t taught me that my first mountain memories and experiences were wrong, simply that they were incomplete. God delights in us, and we seek to draw near to Him. He created mountains, of course, He likes that we enjoy them. I’ve simply learned that my previous times were incomplete. God has more for me than short highs on mountain peaks. He is growing me and shaping me in His image, and using the mountains He has placed me in to help me hear and see Him more clearly.