February 22, 2021

Lift Your Gaze: An Ode to Mountains

The mountains were so wild and so stark and so very beautiful that I wanted to cry. I breathed in another wonderful moment to keep safe in my heart.

— Jane Wilson-Howarth

If I were to make a list of things that make my heart sing, God’s creation would almost certainly be at the top of the list — and amongst my favorite things in nature are mountains. My parents lived in Colorado before I was born. Surviving on a grad student budget, they found mountain drives to be an appealing and economical way to spend the weekends. But I was born in Illinois. Not a mountain for miles. Many miles. I wondered what the Rockies looked like and dreamed of seeing them in person one day.

I didn’t visit Colorado until I was in college, but I had the opportunity to travel to Seattle in middle school. My first glimpse of Mt. Rainier left me speechless, and I was thrilled that we would be able to spend a day hiking in Mt. Rainier National Park. Since this prairie girl didn’t own any hiking books, I set out in search of July snow wearing jeans, sneakers and a windbreaker. I went as far as I possibly could with my meagre gear. We passed gloriously hued wildflowers, frolicking marmots, as well as patches of melting snow. This was better than Disney World! I attempted to capture every moment with my far from adequate 1980-something Vivitar Point n Shoot. The photos were disappointing, but the memories were rich.

Years later, I married someone with a love for mountains. He had also grown up in Illinois but experienced the grandeur of the Rockies during a summer mountaineering course. The passion never left him. Some of our earliest trips together were spent hiking in the Canadian Rockies, which fed my love for adventure and broad vistas.

It is a universal human experience to stand in awe before the magnificence of nature. But why does the beauty of creation affect us this way? I believe we are wired for it. It opens our spirit with a sense of longing. It exposes a need for more — more than this world can provide.

C.S. Lewis associates this sensation with the German word Sehnsucht, which loosely translates to “yearning.” Have you ever experienced this? Have you wondered what it is that your heart is really yearning for? We may yearn for adventure or romance, wisdom or beauty. But all of these things begin and end with God. He is the creator of all that is good, and written into our hearts is a desire to know his goodness.

In Mere Christianity, Lewis wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” This makes sense to me as I gaze at the beauty of a meadow or marvel at the immensity of a snow-capped mountain.

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Today, I am enjoying my last day of a short trip to Big Sky, Montana. The snow is piled high and majestic Lone Peak demands my attention. I am filled with all the same desires to capture the moment, to imprint it within my heart. Again, I ask myself why I am so captivated, and I am reminded of Psalm 121, aptly known as “A Song of Ascents.”

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.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

God calls us to lift our gaze — to fix our eyes on him and not settle for what the world offers. He is “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrew 12:2) as well as “an ever present help in time of need.”(Psalm 46:1) He meets our needs “according to the riches of his glory.” (Phil 4:19) We must not allow ourselves to be satisfied with less because then we will certainly miss out on the more, which is nothing less than abundant life.

In those moments when the mountain before you inspires fear instead of awe or wonder, remember that we have a God who is bigger than any mountain — bigger than anything that can come against you in this life — for even “the mountains melt beneath him.” (Micah 1:4)

So lift your eyes and meet his loving gaze. Discover the beauty of his presence, the wonder of his riches, and the heights of his love.

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