In my early adulthood, I worked for a ministry that stressed the importance of having “mountain top experiences” with God. They reminded us God lead Moses to the top of Mt. Sinai, where he experienced thunder, quakes, and then God himself. They pointed to Jesus going up on the mountain to pray and how he communed with God.
We listened and we did our best to create these experiences in our own lives. And sometimes we did have those coveted, elusive moments with God. And just as often we wore ourselves out.
Mountain top experiences with God are all well and good until you find yourself pinned under the weight of a mountain. In those cases, heroically scaling our way to the top is out of the question. In fact, it’s a cruel dream that’s impossibly out of reach.
Last October, when I was absorbing the reality that my divorce was imminent, I remembered some words of Kierkegaard. He said something to the effect that while God promises to give us the faith to move mountains, in the case of grief, we are called to shoulder the mountain and move it ourselves. Somehow, the act of bearing the grief and walking with it would slowly crumble the mountain until became a hill until it became a boulder… and then finally a nuisance stone in our shoe.
Ok, he didn’t say that last part about the footwear. That’s a Shallenberger paraphrase.
I’ve been looking for that Kierkegaard anthology, because I think I might have altered his idea in an unhelpful way. Yes, I needed to hoist that grief on my back and walk. But I wasn’t alone. Not ever. In my sadness, I looked to the top of the mountain, certain that Jesus was up there waiting for me to find the strength to join him. But he’s not that cruel.
One of the many gifts God has given me this year is the realization that there are “mountain bottom” experiences as well. Jesus has met me below my mountain, more times that I know, and shouldered it with me. Shoot, if I’m honest, he’s like my lifting buddy, who ends up spotting more of the weight on my last few reps on the bench than I can.
The geography of my connection with God has changed. I’ve come to know that God meets us in the subterranean, gloomy parts of our lives just as easily as he meets us when life is all sunbeams and blue skies. He shoulders our mountains, which is no big feat for the one who carried his own cross.
And somehow, together, we will watch the mountain slide into the sea. What’s left of it anyhow. The greater part lies behind us on the ground, like cookie crumbs trailing behind a child.