My husband and I were hiking through some incredibly beautiful terrain, but unfortunately all I could think about were my boots rubbing my heels and cramping my toes, and my knees aching. I wanted to go home. And what stood between me and home was quite simply the mountain we were hiking – the sheer solid rock and soil on which I needed to plant one foot after another until we reached our car and I could sit down and kick off those boots.
This hike was something that my husband had really been looking forward to our doing together. One option was just to tough it out and keep walking. Another option, I knew from experience, was to pray for a more spiritual viewpoint of what was going on. Was there a lesson in this experience that would advance my understanding of God? Could I get “off the mountain” now instead of later? Could I actually experience something, right then and there, of the presence and goodness of God? I was pretty sure that this was possible, that I could have a change of heart about this hike, and that a change of heart would somehow make this trek easier and more joyful.
I wish I could tell you that I remember all the ideas that came to thought as I prayed to be more humble and receptive to the good that was at hand. I thought about Jesus saying that if we had faith as small as a mustard seed, we could say to a mountain, “Be moved into the sea,” and it would move (see Matthew 17:20). I confess I have wrestled with feeling that moving mountains was beyond my reach. But I do remember thinking, Sure, if the mountain is really made of rocks and dirt and trees, that would be impossible. But if the mountain is actually spiritual, an idea in thought, then thought can change. Thought can move. In fact, my thought had moved as I had been praying. It had moved from thinking of the mountain as so much terrain standing between me and my destination (which was making my toes and knees ache) to thinking of it as substantial and elevated thought.
In the biblical accounts of people climbing a mountain in the literal sense, they generally were seeking and finding a higher understanding of God as Life and Love. On a mountain Jesus was transfigured; Elijah heard the “still small voice”; the Ten Commandments were revealed to Moses. These experiences moved humanity forward in momentous ways. Why would I resist or complain about a mental climb that might have the potential to bless not just me, but others as well, if I was willing to seek a clearer, higher viewpoint?
By the time we finished our hike, my feet and knees had stopped aching. And that was wonderful. But more significant, I felt humbled. I felt that I had just witnessed, in a very modest way, the moving of a mountain – not by willing a huge pile of matter to move from one place to another, but simply by learning to see the mountain (and what felt like a mountain of a problem) for what it was: an opportunity to listen and love. I could listen to God to better understand His nature as Love, and to respond to His love by loving – with my whole heart – God and all that He made, in everything I do. Even while hiking a mountain.