Mountaintop Experiences

Mountaintop Experiences

“The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet and makes me walk on my high places.”  Habakkuk 3:19

                Mountaintop experiences.  We all want them.  We’ve been taught they are a good thing, a desired thing, a successful thing.  If you are a church goer then you’ve no doubt heard a sermon or two describing the Christian’s life as one filled with exuberant mountaintop experiences and exasperating valley-drop excursions.  We learn that we can’t have one without the other, but we are inclined to prefer the higher places.  I know this has been my perception…until recently.

For years, one of my favorite verses, in fact my “life verse”, has been Habakkuk 3:19:  “The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet and makes me walk on my high places.”  Whenever I think about this verse, my mind visualizes a Julie Andrews-like figure perched atop a mountain peak, with her willowy dancing dress billowing in the breeze.  (I know this isn’t proper attire for mountain climbing, but it’s my vision and God is long-suffering in His willingness to allow me such indulgences.)  Yep.  It’s a beautiful sight.  The mountain is majestically silhouetted against a bright blue sky; the terrain is rugged but traversable and, other than the hinds feet simile, it’s a great interpretative verse…both in subject and in scenery.

While the mental picture is a plus, the real reason I love this verse is because it reminds me that only God can place me where I need to be.  He is the one who equips me to walk the path He has established for me and He is the one who will take me to great heights.  Over the years, God has shown me deeper truths within this verse that make me love it even more but recently He has shown me a truth that I didn’t expect…or like.  It is this most recent lesson that I wish to share.

As I stated earlier, mountaintop experiences are synonymous with monumental events.  These may include graduations, weddings, births, anniversaries, promotions, or “cancer free” declarations, but one thing is for sure…they are special events that we love to see come and we hate to see go.  So recently, as I was pondering this verse and wondering when I would again be blessed to be on a high place, God spoke into my questioning state and said, “But you are on a high place…haven’t you noticed the change of scenery?”  That’s when I gulped.  It was true, the view outside my window had changed; there were more clouds…the terrain was more rugged…the greenery was more grayish…the air was cooler.  Oh, no…could it be true?  Could I really be having a mountaintop experience?  Where was my Julie Andrews’ dress?  Where was the beautiful music?  (You can’t have a Julie Andrews sighting and not have it accompanied by the song, Climb Every Mountain!)  And what’s more, where were my hinds’ feet?  I certainly didn’t feel sure footed in this place.  And that’s when God began teaching me a new lesson about high places.

After hearing, in essence, God’s voice saying, “If you’ll now look over the ridge on your left, you’ll notice how much smaller everything looks from this altitude,” I realized that high places weren’t just for receiving great views, they were also for receiving great visions.  Sometimes it’s our perception God wants to change and to do that, He needs to take us above the situation so that we can see over it and around it and, eventually, through it.  High places are good for that.  They don’t necessarily mean that the victory has come, but they do indicate that the victory is coming; it’s just over that ridge, it’s just over yonder.  As I pondered this new perspective on high places, I realized that I’d unfairly “grandeur-ized” these pinnacles.  I began to think of examples in the Bible where people had mountaintop experiences that, while life changing, were not moments they would consider “victorious”.

I thought of Abraham and Isaac.  Their climb to the top of Mount Moriah left them breathless, but not with joy and excitement, at least not initially.  For these two, the impending mountaintop experience was formidable but necessary if obedience was to be shown and faith was to be grown.  Coming down from the mountain there was joy unspeakable, but that does not take away from the difficulty faced upon this mountaintop.  Then, I thought of Moses whose journeys up Mount Sinai revealed the difficulties he would face when he came back down that mountain.  The weight of carrying down the tablets of stone were nothing compared to the weight of the stony stares he was sure to receive when he presented these commandments to the Israelites.  Sure they came from God’s own hand, but his were the hands they’d wrongly react against.  Then there was Jesus and His mountaintop experiences.  The first came after His baptism when Satan tempted Him from a mountaintop; another came when He hung on a cross on Mount Calvary.  Now I don’t want to place Jesus on the same footing as Abraham and Moses but these were real experiences He endured on our behalf and, truth be told, they weren’t moments that were, at the time, equated with joy.  (Each did represent victories, however, and I would be remiss if I failed to mention this!)

And there it was: a new lesson about high places; a new perspective on mountaintop experiences.  While I had previously thought they were blissfully wonderful moments, I now had to accept the fact that they could also be painstakingly purposeful moments.  The first mind-set wasn’t wrong, there are mountaintop experiences that are joyous and a cause for celebrations (such as when Peter, James, and John witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration atop Mount Hermon), but there are also times when we are taken to a high place not for the purpose of celebrating (yet) but for the product of contemplating.  Sometimes we need to see over our troubles and around our trials so that we can return to our path in the valley with perseverance…and with joy.  Yep.  I am on a high place and nope, it isn’t as much fun as I’d hoped.  But, knowing that God did place me here and that He is showing me a new perspective for the future brings its own kind of joy.  I would still like to have that billowy dress, though…and the music…perhaps if I close my eyes and click my heels three times…no, wait, that’s another movie and a different soundtrack…


For further reading…

If you are not familiar with the mountaintop experiences of Abraham and Isaac, Moses, or Jesus, you can read about them here:

  • Abraham and Isaac – Genesis 22
  • Moses – Exodus 34
  • Jesus’ temptation – Matthew 4
  • Jesus’ transfiguration –  Matthew 17
  • Jesus’ crucifixion – Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19