You Cannot Live On the Mountain Top…
I am slowly sipping another C.S. Lewis masterpiece—the Screwtape Letters. In it, among other topics, Lewis (through the demon Screwtape) discusses how God has designed life on earth to be filled with undulations–ups and downs. These ups and downs, Lewis adds, while sometimes caused by wise or foolish decisions that a person makes, are oftentimes simply a part of the ebb and flow of God’s natural order–life’s tides, as it were, that teach us how to swim.
I am currently in a “down”-undulation, and it is not pleasant. In fact, it is downright horrific…and though I am often prone to hyperbole with a flair for the dramatic, in this case I am stone-cold and objectively sober: “down”-undulations can be frigidly brutal…
And yet, when one reads the Bible, it is often on these down-undulations that a person gets to know God best, when one’s eyes are forced from the subtly deceptive glare of the mirror upward to the subtly powerful and sublimely attractive face of God Himself. Strangely, while standing on our feet can oftentimes distort our long range vision of who & where God is, our knees often provide the proper prescription for correcting our near-sightedness:
1. Elijah was on the run from certain death–and seemingly alone–when the face of God passed behind him in a “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:1-3, 9-18 NIV).
2. Moses was in the desert for forty years–also fleeing for his life after murdering an Egyptian guard–after spending his youth in the royal palace as a step-grandson to Pharoah when God spoke to him from a burning bush (Exodus 2:10-15, 3:1-14).
3. Paul was unfairly locked up in a prison when he penned the famous words “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV).
And so I am learning that one cannot live on the mountaintop, cannot rest on the bed of warm fuzzy feelings or be nourished by the sucrose of spiritual euphoria for very long. Indeed, these aspects of life are not bad or wrong–they are blessings–as long as we do not become addicted to them, as long as we do not cling to them during the storms of life, as long as we do not use them as the ruler against which to measure our love for Jesus, our love for others, our “happiness”, or the success of our lives.
No, it is not the mountaintop we are to seek, that stony piece of seductive but uninhabitable real estate, but rather we are to seek God Himself…for we were made, in fact, primarily to know Him. And as many people throughout the Bible–including Jesus–endured suffering and countless “down”-undulations, so too must we who claim to love Jesus…
So I will close with a poem I wrote that reminds me, during these “down”-undulations, not to cling to the mountaintop but rather to cling to Jesus…Not to cling to a feeling but rather to a Person…Not to cling to a dream or fantasy but rather to the One Son of God Who created and exists in reality, to Jesus Who loves us unconditionally right where we are no matter what we’ve done, right in the middle of the dank perspiration of our present…He is the One Who offers us rest…and His is the only embrace that truly satisfies…
When level with the sea the peaks attract,
And snow-capped majesty doth bat its eyes;
The wild elegance affirms as “fact”,
That living best is dwelling in the skies.
When focus then takes flight from anchored skin,
And leaves the bones to toil on the ground,
The battle’s almost o’er, the heart must win,
And take up residence on top the mound.
And yet the air is rare atop the peak,
But growing thus addicted to its blaze,
The one who doth pursue none else to seek,
Idolatry to spir’tual highs displays.
The glory of the mountain top doth burn—
So peek, but linger not, we must return.
Jesus invites us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew11:28NIV)…
Anyone willing to accept Jesus’ offer? He’s waiting for us…in the valley…right at the bottom of that “down”-undulation…
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