I was reading in My Utmost for His Highest yesterday a sobering and not exactly welcome reminder that we are not made for the mountains, the sunrises, or the other beautiful attractions in life. Those moments of inspiration are fuel for the human imagination, absolutely—but as C. S. Lewis reminds us, a thrill a boy feels at the first thought of flying quickly dies away when he joins the R. A. F. and is really learning to fly. Life was not meant to be lived as one big thrill, and it would be highly undesirable if it were—C. S. Lewis again, but who could bear to live in that state of excitement for five weeks, let alone five years?
An experience I often write about was that of climbing South Sister with my brother last summer. As anyone who has ever stared at a mountain range knows, the trees tend to stop growing partway up the mountain—perhaps the soil is too rocky, perhaps there’s not enough water, perhaps the climate is too hostile, or perhaps all of these reasons play into it. At any rate, there is not enough substance at the top of the mountain for the tree to sustain itself there, and if it were planted there it would die. In fact, very little if anything tends to grow at the top of a mountain—perhaps the hardiest of mountain lichens might be clinging to the underside of a rock, but it can’t be a very happy existence that lonely lichen leads. At the top, after all, it tends to be very lonely.
The top of the mountain was among the most transcendental and powerful experiences I’ve ever had. My brother can attest that as soon as we made it I burst into tears. But I would never want to live there. My friends, after all, were not only off the mountain, but all but two or three were in another state entirely. My brother was there, but his situation was the same as mine. Besides the fact it was lonely, it is also dangerous up there—storms can strike at any moment if we were to stay too long, and on the way we both got cut up pretty badly. We were not made for the mountains. Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We always want to be filled.
It’s been a very painful process of realizing thus far this semester that not only am I very likely to be filled during these penultimate semesters at Baylor, but in fact I will probably be running on nearly empty during much of this remaining season. God provides exactly what I need to get by every day—and not a drop more. He provides information on a need-to-know basis—which is infuriating for someone like me who likes to plan things. And he keeps me on my toes, showing me that sometimes there are experiences that are not meant to teach me anything—they’re meant to make me something. I don’t know what he’s making of me, but honestly, right now I have so much on my plate I’m not sure I’m ready to process it. And he knows that too.
God made us first and foremost to love him and enjoy him forever. But while we’re here, we’re not made for the mountaintops. As God has been reminding me, we’re made for the valleys, the drudgery, and the ordinary things of life. Those are the places we have to prove our stamina and strength. To paraphrase Chambers, the height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God.
On the mountain, we see the glory of God. Perhaps there, with the drudgery of everyday life far below, we see it more clearly there than anywhere else. But we don’t live for his glory there. We live in many ways as Sisyphus, pushing the rock up the hill only to have it roll back down again. Thank God, though, that our lives are not that futile—for though we are expected to live in a difficult and mundane world, we’re meant to do it for and through a God who also created the mountaintops, and knows better than anyone inside or outside of this universe what fuels the human spirit because it was his own that inspired it.
This blog is titled “The Precipice” after a song by my favourite band, The Classic Crime. The chorus of the song reads like this: “I dreamt I stood on a hill / that I wished was a mountain / to look back on all my accomplishments. / Well, they must have been small, / because I couldn’t seem to find them. / So I took a leap off of the precipice.” This afternoon, I realized that this is exactly what this blog was while I kept it in Spain. It’s name was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t regret keeping it, but I wish I’d used it more wisely. I wish I’d interacted with what I was learning in Spain in the way I did before I left. On the other hand, though, I truly think I wouldn’t change the way I kept it even if I could. Because of its existence I will remember the true nature of my time there in more vibrant, raw, unfiltered colours than I would have otherwise, and best of all I got to share it with you.
Two or three nights ago I had an insomniatic vision (kind of like a dream but not exactly) of standing at the top of a great desert canyon that goes as far as I could see out into nothing, knowing it was a canyon and not a cliff only because of some assurance I had from some unknown place that there was in fact another side to the gaping chasm before me. I knew I was supposed to go down there and I really didn’t want to. But what I want doesn’t matter. All I see is desert, but God will get me through. Thus far, this semester has brought me more sobering wake-up calls that I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with my life than I can count, and it’s only week six. I’ve been in survival mode since August 26th and I’m becoming more and more acutely aware with each passing day that I have absolutely nothing to contribute to this world apart from God my father. And I’m okay with that, at least in my head. He should become greater and I should become less.
Maybe that’s what “the precipice” means. Either way, I guess it’s time to jump.