Exodus 24:15-18 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
This is my favorite picture I have ever taken. I’m not by any means a pro photographer, nor am I a hippie, but in the last few years I have so enjoyed taking pictures of landscapes. This one was taken on one of those days, when it just occurs to you that you are doing something, in a place that is somehow special. It was on a lonely road in the Philippine countryside halfway between the towns of Lucban and Sariaya.
It’s picturesque, and yep that is a bird right in the dead center. (I’d like to say I planned that). But the more I look at it (it’s my laptop background) the more I believe God speaks to me through it. I love that it’s not one mountain, but two.
The one on the left is obviously not as high. It would still be a challenge to climb but I imagine that when you got to the top you’d kind of be thinking “man, I wish I was on the other one.” The one on the right however, that’s the one you want, even though it’s going to take far more application. That’s the one when you get to the top you think “Man, this is a whole other world up here.”
But there’s a catch, apart from it being a lot more effort, it’s also a mystery because it’s covered by cloud. You actually don’t know what is up there. It may not simply be a mountain at all but an active volcano! (There’s plenty of those in this part of the world.) Here we have risk.
Here we have mystery.
And that’s why I love this photo so much, it speaks to me as an illustration of the two basic ways to live. One way is safer, less effort and more predictable and yeah, it’s still going to give me a kind of nice view (for a while). But if I climb that mountain, if I live that way, one day I’m going to be looking up at the other mountain top shrouded in the clouds consumed with regret and jealousy over the ones who ‘lived dangerously’ enough to embrace the difficulty and mystery of the other mountain.
What if this moment lasts for all eternity?
Imagine being eaten by regret……forever.
You see one of things I love about the story of Moses is that God is always calling him up the mountain. God is always calling Moses up to the place of unpredictability, inconvenience (seriously, he would have had no need for a gym) and above all mystery.
What if God hasn’t stopped?
What if he’s still calling us to go up the mountain of mystery. of faith. Faith that when we reach the peak, we won’t in fact get blown to smithereens by the fire and brimstone of an active volcano, but rather that he will be true to his promise of love, peace and joy and that we will indeed experience a different world. Literally.
Isn’t it interesting that in Matthew 5, Jesus calls people to follow him to the top of the mountain before he begins to teach the sermon on the mount? What if he’s finding out to see who is really listening?
Tim Keller recently said: “Christianity is too rational for mysticism and too mystical for rationalism.” I love this. As a rational thinker I naturally like to think of the objective ‘proofs’ for faith and maybe you do too (or even like to debate them). But at some point, to not leave any room for mystery in one’s thinking and approach to life, is simply a subtle for of saying: “I know everything there is to know about how life works.”
How many of us think that we’re ‘playing it smart’ when all we are really doing is just playing it safe?
There are an enormous amount of things I don’t know. About faith, about God, about me and about others. But here’s what I do know, I know which mountain I want to spend my life climbing. Can I see and prove what is up the very top? No. But I want to take the step of faith and trust God that his promises are true, and that one day, I, even I might be able to speak to God who is within the cloud just like Moses did.
Maybe a large part of the life of faith is the faith that one day it will all be worth it when many around us climbing the ‘easy’ mountain are wondering why we bother.
One last thing; The mountains (for now) are connected. I love that even if you’ve begun to climb the safe, predictable mountain, you can still decide to ‘switch mountains’ at any point. But to do so means you have to first cross a valley. Also, the higher you get on the safe and predictable mountain, the more you have to ‘come down’ before climbing the mountain of faith.
Sometimes, choosing the right mountain, the right life, means having to loose altitude and the more ‘progress’ you’ve made, the less you want to throw it all away. But to paraphrase C.S. Lewis; ‘progress, if it is in the wrong direction is not progress at all, but rather going backwards.’
God’s calling us up to the mountaintop, but if we’re on the wrong mountain it’s going to mean throwing away what we thought was progress, a time of being ‘brought low’ and even walking through a valley.
But I believe it will be worth it.