Truth and the Mountain

My friend Ron Noyes has hiked up at least two dozen of “The Fourteeners” in the Colorado Rockies (the 50 peaks higher than 14,000’). I don’t have to ask why he did that or why my son Loren scales sheer rock walls in the Tetons. I’ve climbed a few smaller mountains and know the sensation of sitting atop the highest point. Such times leave me feeling purged, clean, in touch with my deepest self.

I recall a low broad-shouldered mountain my wife and I climbed in southern Africa. Once we reached the broad tabletop, its expanse gave a sense of security, even of power. The people living in the peaceful village far below us went about their business, indifferent to our presence. Occasionally, the sounds of their voices drifted up to us, pure as the notes plucked on a hidden harp. I was glad they were far away; being “up here” separated us from the bustling, unaware, world of “down there.”

That afternoon outing had been recast into something noble, deserving of an anthem. But I thought only of the words of the Psalmist, “And Thou hast not given me over into the hands of the enemy; Thou hast set my feet in a large place.”

You understand such feelings, whether you’ve climbed Mt. Fuji (possibly the most climbed mountain in the world) or Mt. Hood or even if you’ve merely scrambled to the top of the highest hill in a nearby wilderness. Everything you see around you—any direction you look—sets down there, in bondage to that which you’ve left.

It’s a spiritual moment. You have left the normal, the ordinary, the routine, the average, and the obligatory. It prompts us to consider what Jesus meant when he said “My peace I leave with you, not as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” For those minutes or hour that you remain at that place, you belong to no one and nothing else.

Too infrequently do we escape to that beyond ourselves. But we don’t always have to retreat to our personal Sinai. The revelation of the holy can come when we still our minds to stop … stop and look into the chill night sky, sparkling with the diadems of heaven. We stare into that spangled darkness until the cold drives us inside.

But deeper still than nature’s vast display, our spirits can be lifted in time set aside to memorialize a life gone from this mortal plain. For an hour or more, we stop, because we’re supposed to. Cell phones and pagers silent, we become decent human beings again. With family and friends, we celebrate the life now gone. In that tear-stained time, we can lay aside our proper rigid selves and contemplate the truth of the eternal and our own mortality. Sufficiently quiet, we’re aware of that which matters.

The memorial service over, we reluctantly descend the mountaintop and trudge back to duty. Yet Jesus’ words stick in our minds, “Abide in me, all you burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Can we do it? We can experience Jesus’ presence without having to climb a mountain. We only have to stop. Change our focus. In the quiet, our souls can awaken to truth—that being Jesus, the very essence of truth.



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About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
This entry was posted in Finding me ... and you, The Reality of God and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Truth and the Mountain

  1. “The revelation of the holy can come when we …”
    When we want what only God can give us, then we give him what only we can give him – ourself. First we must find our self hidden in the business of our daily life. Then we must place much that protects us on the shelf while we turn our attention to him. Whatever we feel we have to give to God, it is pretty clear and simple what he has to give to us – holiness. Holiness – his fragrance left by his visit.
    Good job Sam.

  2. Beth Vice says:

    I love to hike, even though I stay a little closer to the ground than these big mountains, but the experience is the same. Somehow, surrounded by lush greenery, a view of the ocean, or desert landscape, everything comes more into perspective. God is big and we are small. And yet He chooses to love and communicate with us. What an amazing truth that is!

  3. Probably because of my Welseyan background, I am reminded of the Aldersgate experience. Even the most methodical of Christians benefits immensely from the occasional visit to the figurative (or literal) mountaintop.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thank you, Sarah. Every time I spend a block of time with God’s creation, upon my return I’m always asking myself, “Why don’t I do this more often?”
      This posting was prompted by the memorial service (tomorrow) for my friend Jack. I think it will be a real celebration of life but as each of us consider that it’s also saying good-bye, there’ll be a few manly tears shed. I’m going to miss that guy.

      • A few days ago, a dear friend of mine lost her 82-year-old father who has been struggling with poor health and rapidly advancing dementia for several years. She posted this quote, and I thought you might like it, too.
        .“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”
        ― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid

      • samuelehall says:

        Thanks, Sarah. Truly a dramatic way of expressing this unexpected reality. But when I consider that I’ve seen nearly 27,000 sunrises, regular as clockwork, is it any wonder that I expect to see the next one tomorrow morning?

  4. Jim Erb says:

    I belonged to the Chemeketans for several years and had an opportunity to climb many of the Northwests higher peaks with club members. I now can understand why Jesus took Peter, John, and James up the mountain to participate in his transfiguration. I wish that I could have been on that climb. It had to have been an amazing experience for his disciples. Thanks for the great discriptive writing. Its very uplifting.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks for your comment, and the good words, Jim. When I first moved out here, my boss told me about the Chemeketans. I always intended to join but didn’t get it done. I did climb Three-Fingered Jack (scary at “the crawl”) and later, Mt. Washington–after a woman lost her life on that climb.
      I’m glad you made the connection with the Transfiguration.

  5. Jim Noyes says:

    Thanks for the reminder Sam. I’ve had one or two of those times–just enjoyment–not quite so profound as you delved into. Jim N.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks, Coach. I’m glad it connected. Remember, you’ve had many experiences I could never touch. I’m still getting views of my re-counting of The Noyes Boyes Coon Hunt.

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