Spirited Reflection: Mountain moments


What is it about mountains?  When people in comics seek out wise gurus, they find them at the top of the mountain.  Moses received the 10 Commandments from God on top of a mountain. In the story of the Transfiguration, we hear Peter, James and John encountering Jesus as God’s son in a way they hadn’t before.  And there’s something about those peaks, stretching up, and up, and up that seems to inspire awe in so many of us.  I remember an episode of the old TV show, Little House on the Prairie, in which a young Laura Ingalls had something very important she wanted to say to God, and so she climbed a mountain so she could get as close to God as she could to be certain that God would hear her.

We know that God isn’t in the sky, isn’t even only in heaven.  We know that God is with us everywhere we go, every minute of our lives.  God is with us when we’re watching a bad rerun on TV and God is with us when we’re taking a walk with a friend.  God is with us when we’re in church and God is with us when we’re at work or school.  We know that.

At least intellectually. But there are times when we feel God’s presence with us more than others, and for generations such moments in our lives have been dubbed, “Mountain top experiences” because of this long history of human beings encountering God on mountains.

Those moments can be a lot of things.  They can bring a deep sense of inner peace, a sense that life is good, that God is with you, that God loves you.  They can be really scary, especially when they seem to be pushing us to live our lives differently than we have before, or call us to do things that we never thought we would do.  They can be exciting, inspiring a new sense of mission in our lives.  They can be comforting, helping us through a hard time.  For Jesus, the mountaintop experience confirmed his sense of direction, renewed his determination to go to Jerusalem, and with the strength of the law and the prophets behind him, to die there.

So how is it that all these incredibly different experiences, with such widely varying results, can all be the same thing?  Do these “mountain top experiences” actually have anything in common?

I think there is only one thing they all have in common; in all of them, the person who experiences them comes away with a sense that they have, in some way, experienced God.  They may use different words; the divine touched them; they had a sense of not being alone in the world; they suddenly knew, not only believed, that there is a greater power in the universe.  They believed that life isn’t meaningless; that there is a higher purpose; that we are all deeply connected.

Most people have had some experience like this, even if they struggle to put it into words.  It is often these deeply spiritual experiences that help those of us who follow Jesus of Nazareth continue in our journeys, even when the road is hard.  And when it’s been a long time since a person has had one of these experiences, it can be hard to keep going, to keep trusting that God is still there.  We know it here (head); but we don’t know it here (heart).

When Dr. King spoke of his mountaintop experience, it was a vision of what might be, of the kind of world God was calling all of us to, inviting all of us to work as co-creators with the Divine to create such a world. To move out of an individualized spiritual experience to a coming together, to a movement, to bring about God’s reign of justice on earth.

“I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!”

[excerpt from-“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” the last speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr., on April 3, 1968, at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee.]

From an anonymous contributor.

Filed in: Spirited Reflections


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