Last week, I was at my Holy Yoga retreat, the culmination of months of training. Literally and spiritually, I was on the mountaintop. Emptied of myself and filled with His Spirit, again and again. Challenged and stretched and encouraged and fed, over and over. Lifelong friendships began. We joked that we probably spent as much time in tears from laughing as we did crying.
When you hike in the mountains, paying attention to the elevation gain is far more important than focusing on the miles. Many hikes consist of a steady uphill climb to the ultimate destination. Whether it’s a continental divide view or the summit or simply a glacial lake, the trail winds onward and upward until that point. Excitement builds as you get close. That view, your accomplishment, you stand in awe. Then, rest for your tired legs and a snack for your hungry belly all while snapping a picture (or 20).
My journey to the mountaintop of last week was no different. It was long, I was tired, and it was mostly uphill. There were times when I wanted to give up. Times when I didn’t think that it mattered enough, when I didn’t think I mattered enough. But I kept going, because sometimes in life and in my faith, one more step is all I have to give. And I don’t want to reach the end knowing I didn’t give it all.
While at retreat, I snuck some time for myself and I hiked up into the hills surrounding our camp. As someone who would like to think of herself as mildly outdoorsy, I grabbed a large stick; it was mountain lion country after all. The glory of God’s creation surrounded me. On the way back, I thanked God for keeping me safe, but He answered, “Why are you more afraid of My creation than of Me?” I was stunned.
The most holy God of the universe laid the foundation of the world and to fear Him is the beginning of wisdom. Yet so often, I am more afraid of mountain lions and things not working out the way I planned. She Reads Truth said it so well: “Fearing God by revering Him as holy is not a posture of hiding; it is a posture of drawing near.”
When we meet God on the mountaintop, we are transformed. Sometimes this transformation is scary, because we don’t know if we’re ready or if we’ll even like the change. But drawing near to God is essential if we ever want to experience healing. For it is not God who breaks us, but rather illuminates all of our fractures, all of our mess. But God, in His ever-loving kindness, spits in the mud and reaches down using His own hands to make us whole again.
With every mountaintop experience, there must be a descent, a return climb. We double back and head for the familiar, the known. Sometimes, there is a longing to remain on the mountain, basking in the warm glow. But if we stay, we will never realize the beauty of another summit. In this, we must trust our Guide, for the journey does not consist of but one peak.
And as I head down, I cannot possibly explain what happened up there. I am unable to articulate my experience in a way that would be understood by others. Because even though I shared it with brothers and sisters, it was also uniquely mine.
I must simply let my time in His presence speak. When Moses left the mountaintop after meeting God, his face literally shone from being in the Lord’s presence. The Israelites begged Him to cover it. But in these dark times, covering glimpses of God’s glory helps no one. For it is time to shine. And as you arise, may others recognize the potential to shine within themselves as well.
Arise, shine, for your light has broken through!
The Eternal One’s brilliance has dawned upon you.
See truly; look carefully—darkness blankets the earth;
people all over are cloaked in darkness.
But God will rise and shine on you;
the Eternal’s bright glory will shine on you, a light for all to see.
Nations north and south, peoples east and west, will be drawn to your light,
will find purpose and direction by your light.
In the radiance of your rising, you will enlighten the leaders of nations.
Don’t be shy; don’t be doubtful; lift up your eyes and look around.
They have gathered all around you, eager to come and be close to you.
Isaiah 60:1-4, VOICE