If you walk out the front door of my house you can head east up hill, or west to flatter pavement. It’s usually night, when I go on a walk, as the crickets steady their ritualistic chant, and the sun is a blaze of orange. The other night I chose to go up hill. I needed to be out of breath and feel my legs, but I turned around a few times to stare longingly at the ball of dim light setting behind me. Turning back around to the east, I told myself to look up, as I often have to do, and saw the towering mountains, always familiar, always striking.
And I remembered, everything grand always happens on top of a mountain. Moses received the Ten Commandments, Jesus prayed on the Mount of Olives, Solomon’s Temple is built on Mount Zion, and Jesus delivered the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. Just to name a few.
As quickly as the majestic grandeur in front of my face recalled these events, my mind went to everything I wasn’t doing on top of my mountains. I should be hiking. Everyone is hiking and getting the full experience of nature. I should be climbing great heights, having new experiences, doing something wild and free, and yet here I am pounding the pavement – again. I listened to some music, answered some texts, let my brain swirl with lists of things to do, and walked frenetically along.
Days later my back slowly started creaking. My body knew the signs before I did – like a wind up toy, the screw slowly tightened at the bottom of my spine, and I was forced into a corner of immobility for a few days. My back gives out in moments of stress, or when I don’t take care and stretch. I had to sit, and be still. Between watching a lot of Josh Lyman and Poldark, I had lots of time to ponder the beauty of a movable body, but also the reason why I’m not on top of a mountain. Yet.
Moun·tain:Any adventure, longing, desire, dream, goal, peace, miracle, or fulfillment sought after.
An injury demands you to feel more in forced stillness. I remembered that I need to let sadness and happiness be felt instead of racing to push it away. I prayed more, and I thought more, I read more, and then bamboo farmers taught me something about things that grow underground that have yet to find their way to the mountain top.
Meg Fee, a writer, shares an email she received. It goes like this:
Have we ever talked about Chinese bamboo farmers? That bamboo takes seven years, give or take, to start growing above ground? Chinese bamboo farmers water their bamboo every day for seven years – seven! – with no question that it will, eventually, shoot up towards the sky. The farmers, they dutifully water and nourish their bamboo, nothing seemingly changing, and then bam: it pokes through the ground with such force you can hear it creaking as it grows. It strikes me that we’ve both been watering our bamboo with the kind of faith and dedication of a Chinese farmer, and Meg: it’s paying off. We’ll see shoots, sure enough, and then we won’t quite believe how gloriously and tall and wonder pushy it grows.
You see, so often I look at the mountain top [insert your definition here], and forget the delicate roots and growth of things underneath. To get to that grand mountain takes a lot of stillness while attending to the care and feeding of your heart. Planting your seeds. Actually watering them, and then waiting in faith – allowing your hope to develop along side the bamboo. Putting this into practice is a whole other thing, but being still reminded me of God’s ways, and to “adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience”, so that we can continue to walk up hill toward the mountain until one day, you’ll be at the top too, only to come down and do it all over again.
How do you find stillness to connect to God? What are the unseen sacrifices and joys we often forget that precede our miracle moments?