TOBI BENTON

Why I Won’t Say the Mountains Have Been Leveled

Why I Won’t Say the Mountains Have Been Leveled

Why I Won’t Say the Mountains Have Been Leveled

This daily living?

The resurrection of Jesus is a proclamation that everything in our Scriptures can be lived out by ordinary me and ordinary you in our ordinary lives. Run, walk, slog through today or leap and dance through the night. The path is arduous, but you are not climbing up and over obstacles to reach God.

He is as steady and present as the earth beneath your feet, gravity holding tightly to your heels.

The longing for peace and truth sets us on a pilgrim search for wholeness in God.  Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection

Though simple, GOD WITH US is not easy truth to own. It is hard won. You could call it a life-long pilgrimage.

This idea God is intimately accessible,

that His grace smooths our paths level,

this insistence we don’t need to climb to him?

This is truth and true.

But nowhere does level mean there is no rise and fall in elevation.

Which saint displays a sea-level walk through life? I haven’t encountered one.

No, the ones who seem to have the greatest knowledge of the character of God and faith in His sufficient grace have more often than not had the bloodiest feet, the most worn joints and bowed backs, having walked through this world over a multitude of mountains with God.

I was reading a popular Christian writer this morning in devotional. She is beautiful and wise and has been my friend through her words for years. But this morning I actually wanted to argue with her right out loud. To tell her I understand her words, “You don’t need to climb mountains named I Will Perform or I Will Produce.” I understand mountains equal troubles, and that yes, God’s grace adds up to sufficiency for every trouble we face.

But her words today left me feeling hopeless for the ordinary. To state God levels every mountain that every Christian faces leaves a yawning chasm ripped open on the path of the mother whose longed-for child began cancer treatments at one year of age.

For the mother whose husband of decades suddenly decided he wanted to be single, leaving her to learn what single motherhood looks like in a full house of sons.

For the mother who didn’t want another child because her marriage was in shambles, only to carry the weight of grief, shame, and responsibility when he wasn’t born perfect.

As Christians, too often we present an illusive perfection in our great love affair with God.

We elevate ordinary men and women of Scripture to the truly other-worldly, the unafraid and unquestioning obedient.

We diminish their blood-pulsing, sweat-beaded, skin-covered humanity by presenting an unhurried walk and unworried life.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”… “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

Immediately.

Abraham got up and went out immediately to do what God asked of him. He carried the act on his shoulders and his son’s back, with the knife in his hand. He climbed that mountain alone with God and his orders, his beloved by his side. He bound his son and in faith, with precious few minutes left for God to show up, laid him on the altar, on top of the wood sweaty from Isaac’s back.

I can’t find anywhere in Scripture that tells me what Abraham was feeling. There is no testimony he wasn’t afraid. In this instance, I need a hero of faith to be beside himself but for GodI love the Lord with all my heart and I, after all these years, still fear. I still forget, even in my getting up and going immediately. I still forget that God is my eternal gravity.

Throughout Scripture God promises to make our paths straight. To level them. He removes stumbling blocks and makes the path clear to follow. But He never says we won’t be climbing. Abraham climbed. He carried the physical burden of sacrifice one step at a time. Were his legs as numb as his mind, wonder and waiting on God moving him towards this great test? Jesus too climbed a very narrow, difficult path from Galilee to Jerusalem then out the city gates, with the blood-sweat wood of sacrifice on his back.

Fearing God instead of fearing something else requires both fears. And then a choosing. To state that “worry is belief gone wrong” means that somehow, someday if I have arrived in perfect faith I won’t need to choose which fear. Maybe that does happen in our lifetime here on Earth? But I promise you, Favored One, worry doesn’t mean your faith has gone wrong. It is only growing stronger each time fear drives you to the Faithful One. For to never again worry means you have climbed so many mountains only to discover YES! GOD WITH US every single time. And that belief is our pilgrimage. Ours is a search for wholeness in God.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:32

Faith is hard, Favored One. I think we sometimes celebrate God’s grace, faithfulness, and tender love best by proclaiming His unwavering presence and sufficiency as we spend our days in a world that can be very difficult to walk through. This at least provides an opportunity for, “That season was really hard for you? Yeh, me too.”

Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

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*scripture from Genesis 22:1-14

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