It hasn't been an easy week. Truthfully, the last few months have been something of a huge light display of disappointment strung together with all of these little flickers of disappointment, like Christmas lights, but not nearly as festive or twinkly. And like every other person, when I hit the low point, get scared, lose my sight point, I ask for prayer. Because when you sink to the bottom, sometimes you need something a bit stronger than gravity to pull you back up... for me that's the prayer and encouragement of others.
I came across this quote earlier today in a book I was pretending to read when I was pretending to ignore what I didn't want to be paying attention to because it made me sad: "Only if you have ever been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain." Richard Nixon said that... I figure he probably knows what with the whole impeachment thing. But that started me thinking about the whole "valley" concept and how we use it to describe being at a low point. I think it all started with God, not to place blame, but when He whispered those words of inspiration that we call the Psalms to David, little did He know that he was pulling a Mean Girl on valleys for the rest of eternity. "The valley of the shadow of death..." it doesn't get much worse than that, right? How do you come back from that?
Pity the valley... No one wants to be in the valley when there's a mountain top nearby. Those mountains, we love that metaphor don't we? As Christians we associate the mountain top with good things: the 10 commandments, man's covenant with God and don't ever forget the fact that if you are on a mountain top, you are basically on God's front porch because we associate the geographical location of heaven with "up there." Maybe there is some kind of truth to that, in an existentially profound kind of way that I would pretend to understand, but really wouldn't. I can only understand my current situation in relationship to previous experience and that has brought me to this revelation:
I have spent most of my life grazing in the valley.
Don't misinterpret that as feeling sorry for myself, because I don't. In fact, I have spent most of the day thinking about that whole metaphor and where I fit into it. I'm not much of a mountain climber and in all honesty, I don't think the majority of human beings are. We SURVIVE our difficulties and we do what we have to do to make the best of them. But rarely if ever have I seen one of my own kind jump up and down with excitement at the fact that they are facing the equivalent of a herd of woolly mammoths sporting anger control issues in their day to day lives. The mountain metaphor, to me, has run its course and I think it's time to be honest about the valley.
In the valley, there is almost always vegetation because things grow there. The perfect blend of sun and shade creates a fertile climate for growing and changing. In the valley you can almost count on a steady stream of water, an opportunity to wash yourself clean, to take at look at a reflection that you will never see again as that water will never stop moving. In the valley, there is a chance to quench the kind of thirst that is easily forgotten in the celebration on the mountain top...
And let's not forget the most important thing about the valley: when you reach the valley, you have stopped tumbling. There's only one way down from a mountain and this is to go DOWN from the top.
Most of you will disagree with me, and that is fine. Most of you will take those mountaintop moments and never think about the valley... until you end up there again and your tears will be so monumental that you will use them to literally pour salt in the wounds of your fall. But when you stop and dust what's left of the mountain off, when you realize that God is not a geographical landmark and that He is just as close to you in the valley as you are to Him on the mountaintop... that makes a huge difference. For it is never about WHERE you are when it comes to God, it's about what you are doing while you are there.
So I'm content to camp out in the valley and watch the others roll by; watch the others turn and curse their last mountaintop and shield their eyes from the sun that I am soaking in to try to find the nearest and next one. And if you seek some company while you are in the valley, I won't be the only who is willing to allow you to draw near...