MISSING GOD AND THE MOUNTAINS IN THE DARK

This time last year Rodney and I had the chance to go out to Denver, Colorado for a long weekend. It had been nine years almost to the day since we had been there, and nine years since we had been around any real sort of mountains. We landed in the dark but stretched our necks towards the plane windows, desperate to see if we could catch a silhouette of the Rockies—or at least determine what direction they might be in. But the darkness was coy, and the mountains were sleeping, and it wasn’t until we woke the next morning that we saw what the late hours of the night had hidden.

Rodney came in from the breakfast bar to our hotel room with a cup of coffee, a breakfast sandwich and a grin. “I found the mountains,” he asserted handing over the coffee. “Want to go see?”

Nearly running to the large window at the end of the hall, I came face to face with what night had hidden. There they were. Like they had been waiting for me. Snow-capped and perfect. They’d been there all this time, even last night when all we could see were lighted highways and patchworked streets. They had been there. Not impatient to be seen. Waiting until a morning glory made them known.

Within the hour we left for a day of skiing, that ended with a quiet, reflective, drive back down the mountain to suburbia. We stopped for dinner in Idaho Springs, a small little town where we’d heard word of the one-of-a-kind pizza. It was getting dark quickly when we arrived, the mountains still barely visible—black against a purple sky. But by the time we were done making ourselves sick on pizza crust dipped in honey, the sky matched the mountains. It was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began. If I didn’t know any better, I would have guessed they weren’t there at all.

By the time we left Colorado, my perception of the mountains had changed from that first day.  During the day it was impossible to miss them, but in the evenings, though invisible, I started to get a sense not just that they were still there, but where they were. They became a sort of true north. I always had the sense of them, even if the time of day told me otherwise. The reality of the landscape trumped what my eyes told me.

The psalmist in Psalm 36:6 writes, Your righteousness is like the highest mountains.

In other words, God’s rightness, his justice are like mountains. It took a weekend in the mountains for these words to hit home.

In some way or another, every day, I am confronted with a world that makes it feel like God’s rightness and his justice are missing. Are forgotten. Are late. There are days, weeks at a time, where it feels like I’ve landed a plane in the dark, and the rightness of God I hear about is nowhere to be found.

And then I have these mornings when the sun rises, and the light on the hills and the peaks before me, can only be described as “purple mountain majesty”, and I catch my breath. Because I just can’t believe that something so big and awe-inspiring and substantial was there all the time and I kick myself because I had gotten so close to convincing myself otherwise.

If God’s righteousness is like the mountains, it means there are days where it feels like His righteousness is the axis the world spins around. And it means there are days when He seems eerily silent and convincingly absent.

But hang around long enough, begin to know the mountains long enough, get to know this God well enough, and even in the dark, even in the quiet, even in what feels like a lacking landscape, and a distant deity, you begin to understand that sometimes your mind plays tricks on you, that there are different shades of black—there is the black of emptiness, and then there is the temporary blackness that the world pushes against the steady mountains, and a persistent God— but does not prevail.

The key, I’m starting to understand, is to learn the difference. To accept the feeling of darkness without allowing it to call the shots.
It is believing in the rightness of God without always seeing it.
It is counting on the shadowed, steady presence of the mountains to reappear in the morning, as unlikely as that may sometimes feel.
It is holding vigil for the God who is our true north, even when the world’s landscape hides Him.

Visible or not. Reachable or not. There they are. There God’s righteousness is. Now the key is to live remembering it, even when it feels unlikely.

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