I confess – I don’t ride roller coasters – they terrify me. One bad experience as a small child at a county fair (not even a “real” roller coaster, no loops or great heights, tame by anybody’s standards) and that was enough to confirm my life long decision to avoid roller coasters at all costs. While I have successfully escaped the ups and downs of all roller coaster rides, I have not been exempt from the ups and downs that are part of the ride we all call life. Everybody rides this ride.
The thing is, life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, times when I feel everything is upside down, (the loop) slow climbs to great heights and descents so fast they take my breath away and leave me wondering what happened. The view is great from the heights, but I don’t get to linger long there. It’s like mountain climbing. I spend days/months climbing slowly, overcoming many obstacles along the way until finally I reach the summit. From the summit, the view is spectacular. I can see in all directions at once from a perspective I have never had before. But my euphoria is short lived. After every ascent there must be a descent. This is no different. It is time for the trek back down the mountain.
I have had some mountaintop moments in my life. I always wish they would last longer. I want to live exclusively in those moments. But they are fleeting. They never last. They cannot sustain life. I want to live my life on the mountaintop but it just isn’t possible. There is no level ground there on which to build and the air is too thin. I may spend moments on the mountaintop but I spend my days in the valley. Not necessarily a bad place, the valley can be a peaceful, level place in which to spread out, put down roots and plant crops. (I wonder if that’s where the “putting down roots” expression comes from, a time when people planted crops or a garden signaling they planned to stay because they were literally putting down roots in the ground)
Too bad I can’t take up residence and put down roots on the mountaintop. The vistas from there are so breathtaking. Turns out that’s literally true as well as figuratively. The thin air on the heights literally takes my breath away. Moses met with God on a mountaintop – it was called Mt. Sinai. That’s where he received the ten commandments from God. For me, mountaintop moments are those times when I feel close to God, feel His overwhelming, infinite presence most closely, most clearly – barriers are gone – my view unobstructed – then the moment becomes a memory. These are only moments – not hours, not days, not weeks, not months. But Moses did spend forty days on a mountaintop with God once.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to Me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain;’ . . . So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; . . . Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:1-4 & 28)
Notice Moses was alone with God. Mountaintop moments are solitary moments between only the individual and God. They are unique, profound encounters that leave us forever changed. Look what happens to Moses after spending time on the mountaintop with God,
“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. . . . When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face.” (Exodus 34:29-30 & 33)
Yes, mountaintop moments will change us. They change me – that’s why I want to experience more of them. So I spend my time mountain climbing, wanting to be closer to God. So much time spent climbing – so little time spent at the top. But the struggle of my climb is necessary to prepare me for my time at the top. Moses returned from his time on the mountaintop equipped and ready to take on the tasks God had given him. Moses spent forty days and nights on the mountaintop with God. Then he spent forty years in the desert with the Israelites. But God was with him there also. Isaiah 57:15 tells me,
“For this is what the high and lofty One says – He who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
God is with me on my climbing journey, even as He simultaneously waits patiently, eagerly for me to reach the summit so that He can meet with me on the mountain top, just like He did Moses, spending a moment with me there before it is time for me to began my descent down the mountain into whatever valley God sends me, face shining, ready to face the hours, days, weeks, months, until I am summoned to the summit once again. It is an up and down life to which we are called – constantly climbing mountains higher than we thought we could climb – only to descend into depths deeper than we thought possible or even knew existed.
It is the mountaintop moments of revelation and clarity that see me through the murkiness of the mundane or the darkness of the deep places that make up my hours and my days – that and my Heavenly Father’s presence – His ever abiding, faithful Presence.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.” (Psalm 139:7-12)
Even though I run from roller coasters, I can’t escape the ups and the downs, the steep climbs and the swift descents, the twists and the turns, the mountains and the valleys that define my life’s journey and anyone’s life journey in this world. In every circumstance, I am ever grateful for the assurance of His presence –
“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
“The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:5-8)
sincerely, Grace Day