Some things just take time. And some lessons take a long time to learn and begin to understand. It seems like it’s been a very long time since I began to learn a lesson that I didn’t understand, and that I still don’t fully understand. But maybe I’ve finally learned enough to begin to share again, at least! The thing is that, as I’ve continued to post to this blog, I can only write when I’m led to write. And for so long, I was led to write often. I’d see a photo, or read a verse, or have something happen in our family, and I’d know that I had something to write and to share. It was awesome! And then one day, I ran into something that I hadn’t experienced before. I encountered something that touched my heart, and I felt that there was a truth there that was important, but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t have words for it, and I couldn’t write. I would sometimes have a glimpse of something and sit down to capture it, but it was never complete. It was weird! But then what I realized was that I had to learn something, and that it was just going to take time.
This particular lesson started for me (surprise!) in the mountains, where I often think about the nature of God, and enjoy discovering layer-upon-layer of God’s truths. The whole reason that I enjoy going to the mountains, that I long for the mountains, that I miss the mountains when I’m away from them for too long, is that there are so many ways in which the mountains remind me of, connect me to, and reveal more to me about my Lord, my Creator. Of course, they’re not the only place where this is true, but there’s a much-ness of God in the mountain landscape that’s just greater than any other environment I’ve visited.
The mountains (like many things in creation) have personality! They are not the same from one day to the next. There is something about them that’s always the same, that’s eternal and unchangeable; but you never quite know in what mood you’re going to find them. You just know that, whatever the mood, it’s going to be delightful!!!
For example, last summer, we discovered a great spot, down a long and winding dirt road. It’s called Twin Lakes, and you have to have 4-wheel-drive to get there. It’s steep, it’s narrow, there are wash-outs…But after 7 miles and 60 minutes, the pay-off is immediate, because there are two side-by-side crystal-blue glacier-fed lakes to enjoy…
A short hike yields huge views, an always-welcome reminder of just how big our God is!
So, since the truck was fixed, and summer was in full swing, we planned a Saturday to make our way back up to Twin Lakes…Maybe we could head a little farther out the trail, see something we hadn’t seen last time, maybe take a swim in the lake. We definitely didn’t want to miss Twin Lakes in the beautiful summer weather! And I was looking forward to enjoying a familiar feeling and a known encounter with God.
But this year, God had something a little bit different to show us. This year, Twin Lakes was going to show us another side of its beautiful personality.
This year, we drove up through…
And when we arrived at our destination, it was…
And misted over…
Like we were stranded and alone in some remote and desolate wilderness…Even though I could vividly remember the bright lushness of the little mountain-ringed gemstone lakes!
And it was chilly! I was not fully prepared for this. I had planned for everyone to start in pants and long sleeves, and change to shorts and t-shirts, but I really didn’t pay much attention beyond that! The cold wind made me take a quick inventory…Luckily, with the help of one hooded beach-towel converted from a summer-time-swim-layer to a mountain-top-chill-layer, we managed to each have a hoodie and be warm enough to take a short walk!
Because, on a cold and windy, gray and cloudy day, you just get to enjoy another aspect of these powerful and amazing mountains. The clouds sat low in this hollow among the peaks…and more than that, they were restless clouds, ever-shifting, traveling in barely-perceptible patterns of gray on gray, thickening and settling, then lifting and breezing on, snaking through the valley towards unseen destinations!
The lake surface reflected the same moods, shifting from pale turquoise to deep charcoal gray, thoughtful and deep and muted.
Though the views were completely different, the nature of the trail, the unchangeable and eternal aspect of the trail, is that it’s always enjoyable! We ran and explored along the gravel paths just like last time, finding, as always, much to enjoy in the alpine meadows, miniaturized forest and rocky outcroppings…
And in the rock-scrambling landscape where Genevieve again managed to find a perfect spot to sit.
This day, in this surreal and mysterious version of a place that I thought I knew, I felt something tugging at my heart. It was kind of like sadness, or wistfulness, or something that I couldn’t quite describe that wasn’t the same as the normal enjoyment that I feel experiencing nature under any of its many weather conditions. All I could think of was that the Bible says that all of creation groans under the weight of sin, waiting, along with us, for the return of our Savior to restore everything to its perfect state (Romans 8:18-21)…It was like I could literally feel this place sighing and mourning a state of decay and loss, and desperately looking forward to being healed.
And this was a feeling that stuck with me when we left the mountain. In a spiritual sense, this is a gray world, and I notice it often in my day-to-day life. But Jesus didn’t come to this world to leave it in darkness. He overcame the darkness, the Light has come into the world, and the Light remains here and is more powerful than the darkness, all the time. So, why, in my life as a believer, do things around me seem to be so gray? This is the nagging question that followed me home from the mountain that day, that I couldn’t form fully into words, but that I couldn’t shake, and that God would work on with me day by day until I could begin to understand.
For now we see through a glass, darkly…(1 Corinthians 13:12)
In a sunlit landscape, everything is bright and sharp and clear…But in the clouds, in the fog, in the darkness, even familiar things seem strange and foreign. Things are concealed, and you can doubt, or have trouble seeing, even the things that you absolutely know to be true. I always want to be a light in this darkness, helping others see truth that they may not recognize yet. But I often feel that in this gray world, so many people are not interested, or not ready, or something…So, am I making the difference that I should be making? How am I the light that I should be, if it seems that the darkness is stronger than my light? This does not make sense!
An image from the trail kept coming to mind as I wrestled between the truths that I held and the dimly-lit daily observations of my eyes…Because, in a misty twilight there are certain things that shine forth all-the-brighter, seeming to almost glow in a surreal spot-light…
As day followed day, and I continued to read and pray and study the Bible, God led me to piece together some things.
Whenever I thought of this image, and of this experience that I had on the mountain, I kept thinking about a life that is “veiled.” You see, when Jesus died, voluntarily, as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, He changed things forever. The Veil in the Temple, the barrier between God and man, in place because of man’s sins, was torn from top to bottom. For the first time, man was free to form a direct relationship with God, to invite God directly into his heart. As a result, the only place the veil still exists today is in the heart of man, when he refuses to turn to God, to accept the sacrifice of Jesus, and be saved (2 Corinthians 3:16). So, I thought I began to understand more about gray-ness, but I wasn’t more encouraged. How do you help people see past a veil that is formed in their own hearts? How sad to think that people would continue on in gray and darkness and separation…
And then I read about Paul, who grieved greatly for his people, the Jews, who refused to accept Jesus, to the point that his heart ached to take their place, even to trade his salvation for all of theirs (Romans 9). And yet, beside this grief that he experienced daily, his message was unfailingly one of hope. So I realized that our Hope in the Lord must always be greater than the grief in our spirits in the face of sin and brokenness. That both can, and will exist in our lives as believers, but Hope always wins 🙂 So this was a truth – but it’s not always one quick step from realizing a truth to understanding how to incorporate it into your everyday words, thoughts, and actions…Basically, I had just learned something that I didn’t know how to put into practice, so that I would experience a real change in the way that I felt in my daily life.
And then one day, at work, I had the opportunity to share a little bit of God’s word with someone who didn’t know Him…I spoke with someone who told me how frustrated they were with religious hypocrites – people who go to church faithfully, and say that they do everything for God, but it’s obvious that what they really care about is money, and things, and being high-up in the church. I got to tell this person that Jesus was frustrated with religious hypocrites, too, and that He specifically teaches about that in Scripture, saying “Don’t be like these hypocrites who love to say flowery prayers in front of everyone to impress people; but you, when you pray, go into your closet and pour your heart out to God” (paraphrased, Matthew 6:5). Because that’s what God is after, our hearts, and a relationship with us. This was the first time this person had ever known, ever heard, this teaching that Jesus gave. And suddenly, sharing God’s truth like that, and watching someone who didn’t believe in God nod and agree and be encouraged by His truth, I felt the most amazing feeling! I was over-joyed! Because, in the darkness, a light had shone…
And I realized that the bright spot in the gray was not me, a Believer, carrying the Light and displaying it to others, though I should. It was more than being cheerful, kind, loving, forgiving, and respectful, which I should be. It was more than helping out, or being charitable, or sacrificing for others, which I should also do. But much more powerful, it was the Word of God itself, delivered from the mouth of a believer, into a moment which God had appointed, which released His Light into the darkness. The Light was God’s Word itself – and I was merely the obedient servant who delivered it when He told me to. I know, from Scripture, that whenever God’s Word goes out into the world, it does not return to Him empty or in vain (Isaiah 55:11)…And so, the act of sharing His light in a place of darkness kindled the eternal hope that lives within me, and it brightened my light as well! This was an amazing experience – but my joy did fade, and I did return to wondering and grasping at understanding about the nature of a gray world, the Hope that is always greater, and how I could live and walk in that Hope every day…So that I can treat people with the kind of Love that they deserve and desperately need. If I know the truth about the Word of God, the Light of the world, the Hope that we have in God, how can I still feel a bit overwhelmed at times, a bit down-hearted, a bit wistful?
And then, I was talking to my Dad, and we spoke about Faith, Hope, and Love. And something clicked. And I said – “Dad! Faith, Hope, and Love! They’re in sequence!”
Faith, Hope, Love…Is a God-given progression. Ever since that fateful day when our family decided that the Lord would lead our footsteps, and we set out following a path that He showed us to move to Bellingham, I have been training in the area of my Faith, becoming more stubborn about the basic truth of God and trust in God. And now, it seems, I’m at the beginning of a training-course in Hope. Hope that is always greater than the grief of sin in the world. Hope that will remind eyes that see darkness that the Light may shine in at any moment, and that at the end of times, no matter how confusing, everything will be exactly as it should be, with no tears, no brokenness, and no death! Hope, that builds on Faith, to create the foundation for the kind of Love that Jesus calls us to in these days.
I sure don’t understand it all yet, but I finally see that I’m still in training, and still on the right course. It’s kind of strange to think that it’s taken me so long to sort out something that seems, in a way, so simple…But some things just take time!