IT HAPPENED ON THE MOUNTAIN
(Trussville, AL USA)
"Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in idols nor swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob." (Psalm 24:3-6)
It's about time. I didn't think my annual vacation would ever get here. And I don't mind saying it could not have come at a better time in my life, for I was completely burned out in my vocation of Archaeology Professor. I've climbed so many dark hills and bent down in so many dim caves that my knees just seem to buckle as I walk in the sunlight. And the sad part of it is, I've got four more years till my longed-for retirement, for what it's worth.
I think I'll just relax with another of those in-service training flicks. You know the ones, where the famous archaeologist is hired by government agents to recover a certain treasure, but is overcome by a foreign country's spies. However, this soldier of fortune, along with his lady friend, wins out in the end by recovering the priceless treasure.
Nonetheless, as usual while in the middle of watching the adventure movie, I must have succumbed to my usual sleep pattern, never seeing how the flick ended. I guess I was plum tuckered out, so to speak. Suddenly, without any warning, I found myself in another of my weird dream world adventures.
I found myself in a mountainous wilderness standing at the bottom of a high mountain. This particular mountain was spread out and was the tallest of a large mountain chain. I couldn't help but wonder how I had gotten here, and what I should do to get back home, not caring at all about the panoramic mountain scenery.
Then, before I could finish my thought, I heard a loud rustle. Coming out of the undergrowth was a strange-looking character. He was all decked out from head to toe in mountain climbing gear, pickaxe and all.
That wasn't the half of it. When he spoke, he used the ancient Hebrew dialogue. Since I was well versed in this particular archaic language, we had no trouble communicating. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but wonder who he was and how he had gotten there.
After the customary greetings, he went right to the point, telling me his purpose for being here. Why he happened to speak this ancient Bible language was beyond me.
"Do you see that big mountain in front of you?" the climber asked.
"Yes I do," I replied, somewhat disturbed.
"OK, then, if you are up to it, and can climb to its summit, you will find a very nice monetary surprise," he answered.
Not knowing exactly who he was or precisely what he might be up to, I decided to take him up on his challenge. Away I went, on my adventure up the mountain, taking the nearest and the most straight-forward pathway. It didn't take long for me to realize I was on the wrong path. I then chose another and yet several other paths, as well. But to no avail. I just seemed to be going sideways or downward, not upward to the mountain summit.
So I ended up where I started. I didn't know where to start climbing again. Observing my frustration and hesitation, and coming to my rescue, the nice mountain climber took my hand and began speaking.
"What's wrong, my child? Why the uncertainty?" he asked.
"Well, to be frank, I just don't know where to start," I responded.
"Why, it's so simple, you may have missed it, the truth of the total mission. You see, you hurriedly started out focusing on what path to take, looking for an easy route, instead of looking upward. All you needed to do was start hiking upward, taking the path that traveled upward, be it smooth or rough," he continued. "And as a path ends, just continue upward taking the higher ground. Don't move to the right or the left, but upward. Don't be confused by any sideward paths, just move up until you connect to another path taking you upward ever closer to the top. I think maybe you may have been misled by a sidetrack which may have appeared to be the easiest way to travel."
"Sir, I don't know who you are, or just why you are here, but you have seemed to read my mind," I remarked.
Then the climber started what appeared to be a mountain-related sermon. "Don't forget, my child, you are about to learn one of the most important attributes of your walk with your Creator. This mountain climbing adventure represents your walk with God."
"And what may that be?" I responded rather sarcastically. Even though my saintly Mom had taught me the Bible truth, I had not taken her teaching to heart since leaving the church Sunday school classes.
"You see, my child, this walk up the mountain is representative of His divine sovereign will for your life. It's like traveling the many paths of this mountain, falling short on some and doing well on others. Like going up this mountain, you don't have to start by knowing just exactly what path to take, as long as you continue moving upward. You will finally get there to the summit of the mountain of life." (Proverbs 3:6)
"And like your mountain climb, no matter where you start from, or where you are now, you will end up at the top of God's mountain, which is the perfect will of God. Now continue upward, my child, to your mountain top experience, and to the prize."
Then, before I started up the mountain in my final attempt at making it to the top, this strange character, all decked out in his mountain climbing gear, suddenly vanished completely out of sight. My dream disappeared as well, with me not reaching the pinnacle of the mountain, nor claiming the prize.
I remember it well. I woke up sitting at my desk in front of my computer. Nevertheless, instead of the normal work-related screen, there was a picture of Mom's old tattered Bible, displaying a Scripture verse which read:
"Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
Then, by a sudden miracle, my PC screen changed. There I was, a picture of me sitting in my fourth grade Sunday school class, happily reading my Bible. Oh Mom, I thought, just to go back there again.
Then another screen change read, "Just focus on the right path, one path at a time. When one stops, another will start. Now, remember your youth, and continue to climb upward."
"Wow, God, is it really you? Are you talking through this PC screen? Please God, tell me, tell me," I continued as I fell to my knees in prayer.
What happened next, you might ask? I'll just say this; I love my church Sunday morning adult Bible study class. And yes I use Mom's old tattered Bible. Amen!
The old timers, those oftentimes associated with that "old time religion" way of thinking would also use the Christian phrase, of having a "mountain-top experience" with God.
Mountains were very important, often having a significant role in God’s dealings with His people. Thus, the phrase “mountain-top experience” referred to God's dealing with His people on various mountain-tops. So the phrase has come to mean God's transcendent revelation to His people.
Much like the main character of this story learned, having such a mountain-top experience can and does help one, when they fall off the mountain into a valley of despair, to climb back up onto His mountain of beautiful grace. If only we all would never fall off God's mountain. (Philippians 4:7)