Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Yea, though I walk through the valley and the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. . . Psalm 23: 4. Have you ever noticed that for every mountain there is always a valley below? I never really thought much about it until now. I used to live in Tennessee and one of my favorite pastimes was going up the Cherohala Skyway, a long mountainous scenic highway that overlooked the the Tellico River valley in Tennessee and parts of N. Carolina. The view is just so breathtaking and at certain times of the year the wild concord grapes would be filling out and the scent of passion fruit would be everywhere (yes, I said passion fruit). Other times, the valley would be ablaze with reds, yellows and motley hues indicating the approaching winter. I've had some pretty awesome adventures riding up and down that highway. The mountain always evoked a sense of reverence and awe in me and the valley always seemed to have an air of mystery. The valley was mysterious to me because no matter what time of year it was, I could never see what was really down below as long as I was on the mountain. As soon as I would descend down into the valley everything would come into sharp focus: the campgrounds, the small towns, and little cities. It hit me like a brick: No one really lives on the mountain. There may be a house speckled here and there or even a resort or two, but all real living and interaction takes place in the valley. The valley is where we work. The valley is where we eat. The valley is where our homes, families and friends are. The valley is also where our troubles wait for us. There are floods in the valley. There are extreme storms in the valley. There's crime and even despair in the valley. We love to escape to the mountain and forget about what is down below and I think we should at times. But I now think I understand what King David was trying to say: Valley living is the norm not the exception. Oswald Chambers was spot on when he said that we cannot stay on the mountain because our view of reality is distorted. The valley is covered by the multitude of tree tops and the view is slanted at an angle. We can only look down upon the valley. The only way to know what is really happening in the valley is to actually be in it. As Christians, no matter how close to God we get we are still valley dwellers so long as we are on this earth. The mountain is that mind-blowing experience with God. God reveals His glory to us and He proclaims Who He is: The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin and that will in no wise clear the guilty. . . We quickly recognize how small we are. We need to go up into the mountain and see God's awesomeness from time to time to remind us of Who and what we have in Him. We need the mountain so that we don't become so engrossed with valley living and forget that the valley is not our final home. Yet, we also need the valley. We need the valley because without it we wouldn't know just how much we need God. We would forget that it is He who hath made us and not we ourselves. We wouldn't have a way to grow and be strengthened in our walk with Him and we wouldn't see a need to cling to Him. We don't have to be afraid of the valley. Though there is evil and trouble all around, God is with us. He is not just the God of the Mountain. He is everywhere and not limited to when we feel good or limited by our down times. He is Who He is. I like knowing that I can live in the valley because God has my back. Like the Good, strong and gentle Shepherd He is, He will walk with me through the valley and fight back the evil with his rod and staff. I am comforted in knowing that though I must go through the valley the valley doesn't have to go through me.