I have seen some beautiful mountains over the course of my lifetime. Growing up in several U.S. states and in Germany where mountain ranges were great, my parents made sure my siblings and I learned to appreciate our surroundings in each of these locations. They would take all four of us in the family station wagon to sightsee. What splendor!
Recently, Chris and I had the pleasure of visiting two very gracious friends in another state and seeing mountains that seemed to burst forth from the ground, towering over flat grassy lands. We always consider seeing these marvels of creation as a “Bucket List” experience like no other. The hills of San Antonio cannot reach the majestic heights of the mountains there, but we have grown to recognize the beauty in each place we have visited as an opportunity to cherish. Mountains and water seem to be our new favorite view of God’s handiwork. Oh, the places we still need to see to fully grasp our glorious world! Observing mountains in person rather than in a painting, I can’t help but think of the awesome creativity of our Creator. They are such imposing formations.
If I were to only imagine these mountain views in the distance, it would be easy to assume they are year-round, celebrated, safe places. But this is not true. As lovely as they are, and as inviting as they may seem, many tragedies have unfolded on mountains. The world’s highest peaks tell stories of both beauty and tragedy throughout history. Isn’t that the nature of life itself?
Beauty and tragedy. We see and experience beauty and tragedy so often over our lifetimes.
~ We may hear a beautiful song that was born out of a tragic event. Beauty and tragedy.
~ We may see a beautiful, medal-winning run on a ski slope that ends in an unfortunate fall. Beauty and tragedy.
~ We may smell a swirling campfire that turns into raging flames. Beauty and tragedy.
~ We may witness a beautiful child suddenly show heart-wrenching signs of a disability. Beauty and tragedy.
The unique and undeniable reality of these mountains is that they don’t move. Their nature is to stand erect and still. Their existence is established and immovable. For me to navigate them, I must drive around, through or over them. They don’t accommodate me but, rather, I bend to their will.
“Mountain, move!” I may shout, but it just stands still.
So how did I navigate my “Robert Mountains”? How did I go around, through or over them? I can tell you honestly it took my “mom’s” tenacity, speed, and a big shovel to make it happen. Moms, you know you need some guts to shout at a mountain; some speed to get out of the way of the falling debris; and a big honking shovel to move the rubble (and the stuff!) when the battle is all over. Does that make sense to you? It is a very clear picture to me of the constant mountains that needed to be dealt with when I was fighting for Robert’s life.
My Robert Mountains have physically been removed. (insert Beauty and tragedy) Fortunately, and unfortunately, I no longer fight for his mountains to be removed, but I still fight furiously for other families in our community caring for a child whose mountains remain.
When we traveled on this recent trip, we enjoyed a great outdoor meal one night at a hootenanny (i.e., informal gathering place where singers and musicians perform) filled with hungry guests and music of the region. Our host challenged me to take the stage and sing a song in exchange for a donation to a charity I love. I was not expecting to sing.
Reluctantly, and with real fear of who would accept an outsider singing a Christian song in a country music setting, I accepted the challenge and introduced myself on stage sharing that I only had my voice, not a guitar or another instrument, and that my husband had not brought his saxophone on the plane! I dedicated the song to those who may have lost a family member, a lover or a friend in the last year. I sang the song, “Amazing Grace,” as requested, and the audience joined in with me on the last verse. As I exited the stage, I was shaking with the feeling that I had perhaps done exactly what I was supposed to do in that moment. I returned to our picnic table, and I had almost returned to my seat when a woman with a tear-soaked face stopped me.
I was not expecting her hug. I was not expecting to hear from her a story of tragedy…and then beauty! She said she was a mom who had lost her son six months earlier. She had just scattered his ashes that day. She shared that she asked God, amid those surrounding majestic mountains, during a hootenanny, to give her a sign that her son (and her life) would be okay.
It seemed that my song, sung only because of our host’s challenge, had been her sign. Her mountain did not move in the way she had hoped. Her tenacity, speed or shovel could not make her mountain budge. She whispered to me that I was the answer to her desperate prayer. And I whispered to this strong, vulnerable, trusting mom that I had experienced the same tragedy six years earlier.
What had I done to deserve such an honor? My Robert Mountains had not moved like I desired and, in that moment, standing with tears in the middle of a hootenanny, surrounded by beautiful mountains, I got it. Some mountains do not move for you so that you can be there for someone else’s mountain experience. My mountain could not move if I was going to feel her pain and be her answer to prayer that night. Beauty and tragedy all mixed together.
I will never forget her face and her words. I hope that one day, by some means, she will read this blog and know that she touched me deeply. I know that is a very long shot, but I still hope. I do not know that I will ever get the honor of being someone’s answer to prayer so vividly again. I hope so, but I don’t know. I can only tell you that I am ready to be that person if I am given such a privilege again.
Thank you, God, for not moving my Robert Mountains so that I could be a very small part of a mom’s answer to prayer. Thank you, dear friends, for hosting us and for the years of hearing from God and, in this moment, boldly voicing such a daring challenge. (I could have totally embarrassed you and ruined your reputation!)
We usually refer to mountaintop experiences as the best or greatest of all encounters. What if the real purpose of the mountain is at the base of it, as we view its towering mass and know God’s presence right there? The word “valley” takes on new meaning to me when I see the mountain itself as both a place of beauty and tragedy.
What mountain are you willing to stand at the base of to be that person for someone you know or a stranger on your journey? Consider it the greatest honor of your life if you get to hear the words:
“You were my answer from God tonight.”
Don’t move my mountains, oh God. Let me see them as you see them. You hold beauty and tragedy so well.
Listening Library: Trust In You (Lauren Daigle)
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV)
Trust In You