|Mountaintops are thrilling, but real life is found in the valleys.|
Have you ever had a “mountaintop experience,” an overwhelming, mind-consuming event that inspired, challenged or motivated you in ways you’d never imagined? Maybe it was in a college classroom, a business workshop, or a spiritual conference? Some truth you heard or strategy you gained that left you fired-up, believing life as you’d known it would never be the same?
Mountaintops – and the valleys lying below them: curious things.
Significant parts of my life have been spent in close proximity to mountains. In Germany, where I was born – my dad was in the U.S. Army, my mom had gone to be with him, and I wanted to be close to her at the time – my parents enjoyed the Wetterstein mountain range, featuring Zugspitze, the country’s highest peak, near the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
There were no mountains in New Jersey where I grew up, or Ohio where I started my journalistic career. But in moving to Chattanooga, Tenn. we found ourselves living atop a hill and near Signal and Lookout mountains, as well as within easy driving distance to the Smoky Mountains and picturesque Asheville, N.C. My travels often took me to Colorado Springs and Denver, Colo., where the towering Rocky Mountains painted breath-taking vistas.
My greatest mountaintop experiences, however, weren’t all on real mountains. I attended conferences in various settings where I heard outstanding Bible teachers. Their depth of knowledge and practical understanding of how to relate biblical truth to everyday living helped me to grasp being a “Christian” should be 24/7, not limited to religious gatherings.
Traveling around the country to interview committed, mature followers of Jesus for magazine articles, it often seemed I was flying higher than the jet transporting me as I returned home. When Isaiah 40:31 speaks of “mounting up with wings like eagles,” that’s how I felt.
Time after time I’d attend an event, or meet inspiring people, that made me feel I could tackle the world. “You and me, God, we’re a team!”
Then, however, it would be time to leave the mountaintop – literal or figurative – and descend back into the valley. It’s interesting how the realities of everyday life – bills, home repairs, work deadlines, family issues – can spoil a good mood forged on a remote “mountaintop.” The “I can conquer anything” thrill soon fades while visiting the dentist or calling to get the car fixed.
That’s why I appreciate what Oswald Chambers said in his classic devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest:
“After every time of exaltation, we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they really are, where it is neither beautiful, poetic, nor thrilling. 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…. Most of us can do things if we are always at some heroic level of intensity…God wants us to be at the drab everyday level, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with him.”
For the most part, all of life’s like that. The wedding is exciting, but then comes the marriage. Giving birth is thrilling, but then comes raising the child. Landing the big contract is exhilarating, but then comes serving the customer.
Maybe that’s why many people find the words of the so-called “shepherd’s psalm” so reassuring: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you (God) are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). This passage isn’t talking so much about physical death as it is the problems and struggles – even terrors – of everyday life. We can’t live forever on the mountaintop; we must descend into the demon-infested, trouble-filled valley. And it’s comforting to know we’re not alone, that God is there beside us, offering direction, provision and protection.