Thursday, February 17, 2011

Comin' 'Round the Mountain

How can I be back here again?  Didn’t I wrestle with this already?  Didn’t I come to terms with this through lots of tears?  Didn’t I release this particular struggle to God’s care?  Have I failed?  Is my faith too weak?  Why, God, why?

Have you ever felt that way?  You’ve come through a wilderness bloodied but not beaten.  You’ve been stretched and learned to rely on our Father in new ways.  You’ve experienced the joy of His healing and love.  And yet… here you are again, seemingly knocked back months (or even years!) on your spiritual growth path.

I read something once that has stuck with me and gives me hope on days like today.  Our faith walk, this author stated, is not a straight line, making any slip a backward motion.  Instead, we should think of ourselves hiking on a mountain trail, which winds around its circumference, slowly upward. 

I picture a majestic mountain, like one of the Rockies.  Along its side are areas of shale, washed out places, deep cuts which extend vertically.  As we journey, we encounter such a spot.  We struggle, barely able to keep balance as we climb over rocks, into gullies, head bowed down against winds which buffet us.  We cry out, and find our Rope, firmly grounded, which no shaking or stumbling can loosen.  Grasping it, we walk (or possibly crawl!) through. 

Things smooth out again.  We travel on and up and around until we come back to that place.  We are a little higher than before, but this is still dangerous terrain.  Once more, we struggle.  Perhaps we lose our footing on the scree and slip, even falling down momentarily.  We dust ourselves off and keep going.  Our Father once again guides us, His Holy Spirit giving us the power to persevere to the other side. 

Now we go up and around again, but this time, we begin to notice the scenery, and become aware that we are heading into the washed-out place.  We may still stumble, but this time we don’t wait until we are slipping before we grab onto our Rope.  Sometimes we pass with just a little wobble, other times we fight for each step, but on we go, learning more about ourselves, more about our sure Guide. 

We continue to travel, up and around, five, six, ten times, until at some point, we’ve climbed up past this particular gully.  Ahead are new hazards, new challenges, new places of struggle and growth.  And all the while, we travel on and up.  All the while, we travel in the grace of God.  We travel in His power. 

Through this journey He is with us, revealing to us our crevices, our areas of weakness.  He invites us to confront them, giving us His courage to brave the shale, our firm Foundation though the rocks crash down around us.

So, here I am, back again, confronting a battle I thought was done.  Are you there, too?  Perhaps today your scars ache, reminding you of your own place of weakness.  We need to hear the words of Jesus – Take heart!  In Him, we are not where we were.  Think about it - just the fact that we recognize this spot of struggle is forward movement!

Let me say it again - take heart, fellow travelers!  We do not walk alone.  The One who has brought us through in the past has promised He will never fail us or forsake us.  Remember that He, too, has traveled this path, and was tempted in every way we have been.  Let’s grab hold of our Rope, lean into Him, and allow Him to walk with us as we once again travel this rough patch. 

And when we see another struggling, let’s join in the journey.  Let’s remind each other that God has led us in the past, and He will continue the good work He has started.  Let’s remind each other that the battle which is waging is worth it, because it is bringing us closer to the summit.  Closer to the top of the mountain. 

And then, oh joy!  All the struggle will end, and with sure, strong steps we will approach the Throne and behold our Savior, our Rope, our Guide, face-to-face!

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  (II Corinthians 3:18)

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