Rumor has it that when you climb to the top of mountain, you have a vantage point of beauty for miles around. This is why some crazy people – and I mean that lovingly – like to climb.
It’s not just rumor, though. I’ve been to the top of a couple of mountains. Grumpily. Stubbornly. Negatively. I am no hiker. I don’t like to work that hard when it comes to walking around in beautiful woods and hills in God’s good creation.
I wish I could remember the name of the mountain in the Adirondacks. I did not enjoy that climb at all, but Mom and Dad made me and there was the peer pressure of my siblings with my youngest, Len, just bounding up. But oh, my. When we got to the top even my bad mood was worth it (to me, but probably not to my family). The view was stunning. Rolling hills with lakes and streams running around them, with mountains rising up here and there. Gorgeous.
Another mountain I got to the top of – almost the top – has become the stuff of family legend. Only it’s true legend. My visit to my brother who was in the Peace Corps in Ecuador overlapped with my parents’ visit. We were in the Andes. These are serious mountains. Snow-covered, altitude-sickness-inducing, windy mountains. With crosses along the paths where people had died. I have never been known for my zest for such outdoor endeavors, and my willingness to put aside my negative mood was no where to be found. So I say to my brother and parents, “What’s the point?” Seriously, what was the point of getting up this mountain, Chimbarazo? A volcano, by the way. Not active or I would have been safely ensconced in some pleasant restaurant in Quito.
The point was what you could see. Again, miles and miles and miles of beauty.
And you just can’t get to that mountaintop point without hard work and adventure.
If I had been oriented to being in the present moment, I would have noticed much more of the beauty and hard work itself. The Adirondack woods are lovely. I’ll let myself off the hook for Chimbarazo since I was altitude sick and recovering from the second of a series of five rabies shots. But if I was doing it again – and who knows? I might – I would notice more of the beauteous wonder that is a volcanic mountain range.
The hard journey is worth it. Scary times driving around tight curves, hard paths to negotiate, steep inclines, slipping, falling, and still we can get to the point where we see beauty all around.
This is my last Monday Morning Meditation for the foreseeable future. This past year has been quite a journey for me with the slipping, falling, hard work, and hard paths to negotiate. But this time I’m noticing the beauty that I find along the way, and I am convinced, as many have been before me, that I am on my way to the promised land. When you’re climbing a mountain, you take it step by step, sometimes pausing to see what your next step will be. I can only see a few steps ahead.
But here’s the thing: I have learned not to live by my own understanding. Not that I don’t use the good mind God gave me, and not that I don’t take responsibility for and joy in the free choices I get to make because of the mighty and merciful and unending grace of God. But I cannot get stuck inside my own head. I don’t want to be there all by myself. I must see the beauty around me in people and creation.
Yesterday, on my last Sunday, the loving congregation of Trinity United Presbyterian Church gave me a large, beautiful print of a wooden path crossing a stream deep in some woods. You can’t see the path that leads to the modest bridge, and you can’t see the path that leads away on the other side. You can see trees and grasses and flowers, all in sepia tones. The verse underneath is from Proverbs 3:
“Lean on the Lord, and he will make your paths clear.”
So here I go, leaning. I’ll lean on the presence of the Holy Spirit in my own heart and mind, on the Holy Spirit leading me through friends and family, on God who, as John Calvin said, I know truly only if I know that God loves me.
As my brother left Ithaca to head to Ecuador, one of his professors said “Vaya con Dios.”
It is a Spanish phrase that means “Go with God.” I have no idea how hard your climbing through life is, how hard it will be today or in coming years, or how clear your next steps are, and maybe they’re hidden. But I know God goes with you, every step of the way.
Blessings to you all.
Vaya con Dios,