When we booked our mountain getaway for February, we thought it’d be snowcapped and snuggly. Drastically discounted rates alluded to others presuming the same, but what we got were sunny skies and 70 degrees.
There’s something about getting away, even if just for a few days, and experiencing life from a new perspective. We went for daily hikes, ate picnic lunches, and splashed in sparkling creeks. Evidence of the devastation from the 2016 Great Smoky Mountain wildfire was still everywhere, but so were the quiet promises of hope. Evergreens now more than dot the mountainsides, and the wild rhododendrons are sure to put on a spectacular show this May.
From our little cabin balcony, Wade and I rocked and wished for a (distant) black bear siting. We sipped coffee, rubbed sore feet, and discussed Moses’ sandaled ascension of Mount Sinai. A quick Google search told us that it would’ve taken Moses about four hours to make the trip, but then he stayed there, on top of the mountain praying and talking with God for 40 days.
As we gazed upon the beauty of creation in East Tennessee, Lent had just begun. Lent is the 40 days Christians dedicate to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Part of me wished we could stay atop this mountain for more days, above and away from the temptation of viewing life from a monotonous lens as a string of Mondays.
Maybe that makes me like St. Peter. When he, James, and John accompanied Jesus up Mt. Tabor, they were witnesses to the glory of Christ’s Transfiguration. Peter asked if they should stay there and pitch three tents. How many times have I wanted to pitch my tent and stay in a perfect, mountain peak moment? How many more times have I failed to see the beauty of the present, and wish for something else?
Maybe this is why some restless nights or work weeks can seem so long, yet the years fly by. Are we truly so busy? Or do we fail to realize how elevated and glorious some moments really are? Is it a mound of dirty dishes, or part of a home where guests are welcome and bellies and hearts are full? Did we lose, or did we gain experience? Is it a devastating diagnosis, or is it an opportunity to not mince words, to forgive, and to truly love? No doubt, life has its deserts and valleys and raging wildfires, but they don’t last forever and we’re never alone.
Our final hike was perhaps the most difficult. Though it had been marketed as “family-friendly,” the look on several parents’ faces made me think it should’ve included a caution for travel worn moms and dads who were packing pancake-fueled tots up the narrow slope.
The trail was rocky, muddy, and slick with morning dew. The path was winding, and not terribly steep, but my trip-tired legs felt the strain. Wide tree trunks obscured any view until the end. Then I realized… we’d been close to the top all along. It was like never seeing the forest for the trees, but rather never seeing the top for already standing upon it.
Perhaps the mountain top moments are every day, or at least closer than they appear. I know, weddings and new babies and other milestone moments are Everest occasions, but what about today? How about those conversations on creaky porch rockers, or the smell of coffee brewing on a foggy morning?
I think it only has to do with perspective. Slow down, sip, savor, and see how close the Lord is. May we join St. Patrick’s prayer:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
Instead of thinking we need to look down to be up, our hearts need only to be lifted to the Lord. Amen?