For People On Mountains And People In Pits

Life is the rising and falling red line of a heart beat on ever-unfolding white paper.

Up and down.

Up and down.

Up and down.

Sometimes up and down a hundred times in a day. Often so far up, off the chart, and so far down, off the chart again.

This is life. And while we'd prefer a still, straight, less-jostling line, that, of course, would be death.

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Four days ago I stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon watching a peerless sunset, raising my hands to a God I could almost touch. I laughed with good friends and felt my husband's strong arms around my waist.

Two days ago my friend Amber's sister died suddenly, unexpectedly. I found myself messaging with her close to midnight, messaging her and another friend who'd recently lost a brother. I prayed and offered what counsel I could. People come to me in those sorts of moments because I have my own tragedies behind me, because I was broken and seem whole, because sometimes I'm happy and that seems impossible to friends with tragedy in their laps, suffocating sadness pooling in the corners of their eyes. That same day I talked to a friend drowning in anxiety. I listened while she cried. And I cried.

One day ago my recently baptized daughter stood in the middle of a circle of a hundred people, all reaching to touch her, singing "The Lord bless you and keep you," raising word-walls of protection and grace around her small, vulnerable, heart. My friend Janine sat next to her and, in front (and on behalf) of our church family, spoke the exact words my daughter needed to hear, words so clearly from God. And my heart swelled. And I cried a different sort of tears.

Up. Down. Up.

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I spent last week in Zion National Park. My husband and I went to celebrate our anniversary with two epic hikes: Angel's Landing and The Narrows. If you've been to Zion you know, these hikes are as different from one another as two hikes can be, but they are both breathtaking.

Angel's Landing is a 5 mile hike up to and along a sheer ridge 5785 feet in the air. It's like climbing a mountain but the mountain's only four or five feet wide. Sometimes less. Drop offs are so dangerous park rangers have installed chain hand-holds and posted signs like this one:

It's dangerous, sure, but so worth it. Just look at these views:

So high up, I looked out over the edge of that cliff and thought, "Surely God is in this place." The beauty and expanse... I felt close to God, even like God--everything looked so clear from this all-seeing perch. I understood what David meant in the Psalms when he talked about high places and the safety they provide--no one, nothing could sneak up on me here.

I didn't want to blink. I didn't want to climb down.

But I did. And the next day we hiked The Narrows. The Narrows is a hike 1400 feet down. You walk (and wade) in the Virgin River as it snakes through Zion Canyon. On either side of you, sandstone walls shoot up 2,400 feet into the air. At some points the walls creep within twenty feet of one another. Most of the hike happens in chilly shadows as only a sliver of light makes it through to the canyon floor.

The result is other-worldly:

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Down in the river, looking up, up, up, I thought, "Surely, God is in this place." With so little light, shadows stalking, we couldn't ignore the light we could see--dancing, streaking, coloring canyons red and purple, pink and peach. I didn't notice the light up on the mountain. Here, it dazzled.

We wore good canyoneering shoes and carried walking sticks and wore fleece--none of which was needed on the mountain top. But all of it made the walking sure and steady and good here in the cold, rocky water. Here the way was wide enough for friends to walk beside us. And we never worried if we'd fall, our feet on the very bottom ground.

I asked Justin which hike was his favorite. He couldn't choose. I said, I think The Narrows felt more familiar. But both. Of course both.

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I guess what I'm saying, why I told you all of that about hiking, is this:

God is at the top, and God is at the bottom.

There's beauty and light in both places in extravagant measure. The views from low and high cannot be beat by the lukewarm middle.

You want to see God?

Look for Him in the moments so full of joy you have to pinch yourself six times to see if you're dreaming. Look for Him in the moments so fulfilling and thrilling you never want to stop doing exactly what you're doing this very second. Look for Him in the moments when everything is clear and everything makes sense and you know just what to do and just what to say and just where to go.

AND

Look for Him when the dark creeps in and you don't know what's next and it seems like you couldn't fall any further. Look for Him when you're tired. Look for Him when you're waist deep in a river of trouble.

He's there.

Yeah, God's in the middle, too, but if I know anything about following God it's that God likes peaks and pits. He blesses luxuriously and shapes aggressively. He likes blessing, and He likes what suffering can do. That means God's people spend a lot of time on mountains. And a lot of time in canyon floors.

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There's this tunnel in Zion National Park. Built in the 30's, it's over 1 mile long, two lanes, and unlit. Within seconds of pulling into the cave-like entrance, you find yourself swallowed in darkness. It's scary. But only for a moment. Quickly you approach the first in a series of cut-outs in the sandstone, arched windows revealing the rocky peaks and green valleys outside, light streaming through the openings in tunnel-flooding clouds.

Over the course of a mile you'll pass a handful of illuminating views.

But.

The views aren't close together. When you come upon one, you only have light for a moment. Then you've passed it and the darkness surges in. Your eyes reach ahead, waiting, aching. And just when you'd given up hope expecting another, you'd catch a glimpse of the light.

I thought when I rode through that tunnel--this is what life's like. Dark, light, dark, light... Living for the glimpses.

But I was wrong. It's not quite that. Because the glimpses are everywhere. And the light never goes away, though sometimes it's brighter and other times it's easier to see.