Sometimes when one travels afar and ascends slopes to view summits, clouds cover. Sometimes when we dig in and climb hard, we still can’t see the heights. We end up short and feel cheated—defeated.
Driving two and a half hours to the base of Mt. Rainier, an active volcano standing majestic at 14, 410 feet above the sea I had touched just two days prior, I hoped to see the snow-covered summit and the crest’s edge where melted earth had erupted, pushing mount into existence, and left what is now the fifth place in the United States to be named a national park.
How devastation led to reclamation is nothing short of extraordinary. Cedar and fir trees stand in groves, one thousand years old. I touched their trunks, spread my arms wide at their girth, leaned into their rough and grooved bark, embracing history, these trees planted from seed sown and grown by God Himself, protected from wind and rain and fire.
How small one can feel in a forest. How insignificant in the grand scheme of creation we are. On the other hand, humanity was given this gift by the mighty God. To remind us of our smallness? To tell of His greatness? To overshadow us with a canopy of His holy love and protection and sense of wonder?
I stand in the Grove of the Patriarchs. That’s what it’s called, this virgin stand of cedar and fir. And I reflect on my patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses. I speak to them here in this forested cathedral, thanking them for their example of faith, their mentoring and encouraging I gain from life story. Am I becoming a cedar? Will my spirit still stand with these greats one day? By faith, yes. By faith alone in Christ my Savior, yes. We will stand together in glory.
But I have not reached my destination yet. I have not reached the point of my journey—to see the summit, the mountain top. So I drive on. Up I go, in low gear on winding road with steep cliffs beside. If not for guard rails, one slip of the wheel could send me tumbling down to my death. I can feel the possibility in my bones and I shiver. As I come closer to where the road ends, I realize the summit is shrouded with clouds. Thick blankets hang bright white, blinding the eye in the sun. And they lay quiet with barely a breeze to move them off, revealing the peak I had hoped to view. What can one do when summits are high and clouds move in and cover? One can accept. Because who can blow clouds but God? Who can move mountains but God? Who can burn through mist and reveal glory but God?
And so I pray thanks. Thanks for the sun and the rivers and the rocks and the trees—the magnificent trees! Thanks for the car that brought me so far! Thanks for the brother beside me, back into my life once more! Thanks for my life and breath and eyes and ears and nose and hands and legs and clothes and sunglasses and . . .
It’s good to give thanks—to remember and give thanks for all our blessings when mountain tops evade. Because the journey is about the journey, not just the destination. It’s about taking in the small and seemingly insignificant compared to the summits and giving thanks for all. It’s about enjoying the tiniest grace which is never insignificant. Nothing is too small to be graced by God. Nothing is too small to be infused with God. All grace is from God’s hand. And all is blessing, somehow, even when we don’t notice, don’t understand, don’t even care. He cares. Always.
And then, the breeze picks up. I can feel it first and then I see clouds begin to move. A hole in the blanket reveals periwinkle blue moving right over the peak like two hands forming a heart until the summit I came to see is centered. There it is! The top of Mt. Rainier and the edge of Columbia Crest where it all began! Cameras click away, capturing glory. The breeze strengthens and the cloud bank moves faster now, azure sky pushing thick vapor curtain aside, revealing the star of the show. And the peoples of the earth with differing tongue act like kids on Christmas morn when the largest package has been pulled from under the tree and placed on their lap. Mouths spew excitement and cameras click and people pose smiling.
I learn that the summit is often covered with cloud, sometimes for weeks. Visitors come from all over the world and may miss seeing the top. Thousands of hikers come with the goal of reaching the summit, but only half succeed. Fierce wind, freezing temperatures, low to no visibility, and glacial ice forming treacherous crevasses keep humanity painfully aware of our limitations.
I often feel like a climber on the mountain we call life. Goodness and blessing are my constant companions, even when my sights are set on the summit and I feel the agony of failure, even when I feel the fierce winds of trails and the freezing temperatures of tribulations, even when I can’t see one foot in front of me and I’m afraid of falling into an abyss I can’t see. I’m painfully aware of my limitations. But I’m gloriously aware of my God.
He who made the mountain tops made me. And He says I’m worth more to him than all the mountain tops—all the achievements—all the glory of this earth and beyond that His hands made. I am worth more. And so are you. He made the mountain for us and He is with us as we climb, strengthening feeble legs and fearful hearts. Onward and upward, I will go. And unlike the climbers on this mount who have no assurance they will summit, I will summit, sure with my God. He is my helper and guide, guaranteeing I will one day see the summit and will stand strong on its peak, holding hands raised high, giving glory to God in the highest.
Climb with me? Stand with me? See God with me, even in the small, at the base of the summit, wherever we find ourselves walking this day? Give thanks with me?
Keep the goal steady in mind. Have hope. Rest assured. One step at a time, we will summit, with Christ.