The tiny stone chapel was nestled on the side of a mountain. No larger than a child’s playhouse, it captivated my 8-year-old imagination. I had to go inside. As I entered, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of stillness that led me to sit reverently on a bench for quite some time. It was only my mother’s worried cries coming from the outside — “Donna! Donna!” — that broke my moment of contemplation.
We were on a family vacation visiting my father’s relatives in Switzerland, and we were hiking in an area of the Alps which he had called his “backyard” as a boy. We wanted to go up to the mountains to enjoy the amazing vistas. But I found much more: I found God and God found me. I went up to the mountain that day and came down wanting to walk in God’s paths — paths that would twist and turn, and lead me into ministry many years later.
This Advent, the prophet Isaiah invites us to go up the mountain so that we can once again be taught by God and learn to walk in God’s ways. That mountain doesn’t have to be a literal one to climb. It can be any moment in our lives in which we seek to go further and higher with God. Those mountain climbs are the ones where we want something more in life — more love than hate, more joy amid sadness, more peace than conflict — and we realize that “more” can only come from God.
In the documentary, “Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story,” filmmaker Martin Doblmeier, shares the “mountain” moment that impacted Thurman’s life. It was a trip to India where the Black pastor met with Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi had wanted to learn more about the Black struggle in America. Thurman, in turn, wanted to hear more about the nonviolent approach to resistance that was foundational to Gandhi’s spiritual life. Thurman would return from that “mountain” and share for years come about the power of living peacefully, even amid opposition. In a divided world where joy seems fleeting, we need to climb our metaphorical mountains of the Lord. We need to ascend to those places where we can learn to be people who walk in God’s ways.
God of mountaintop lessons, help me climb higher in my knowledge of you, so that I may walk in your ways all the days of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Take a moment during your day to visualize walking up the mountain of the Lord as spoken by the prophet Isaiah. What do you see? Is the walk hard? Once at the top, sit quietly and ask for the God path to be revealed to you.