Over the past 6 years, I have taken the time each year around January or February to go to the mountains for a few days and do some skiing. This may sound like a fun, annual event that many people engage in, but for me, it is much more than this.
It began during seminary. First semester finals were about 3 or 4 weeks of intense studying and comprehensive tests that determined your entire grade for the semester. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy theology very much, but at the end of a month of studying and tests indoors I needed some renewal spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
So I went to the mountains.
Part of the reason I love skiing is the true grandeur of the setting. There I am, sometimes above the clouds, looking out on this beautiful landscape which is so enormous and covered in snow. It actually takes my breath away every time. I don’t even want to start the run down the mountain, because I just want to take it all in, and the pictures can never do credit to the experience.
The cool fresh air and the powerful wind at my back. The warmth of the sun at altitude. The crisp, crackling of the white snow all around, the movement of the clouds above. I could stay there for hours just taking it all in. This kind of experience reminds me that I am part of something larger as I look out from the heights over the Earth from a perspective that I often miss in the midst of my daily life.
The physical experience of the grandeur of creation helps raise my soul to higher planes as well. As I feel myself part of this larger picture of creation it draws my mind and soul to contemplate the greatness of God as well. As amazing as the Earth is, how much more amazing must the one who made it be? What kind of mind is capable of conceiving of something so beautiful and so loving to bring it to be?
I cannot help but be truly humbled in the presence of such a great mystery as the creation of the world and the one who would make it. Humbled to understand that as much as my daily concerns, the tests I would take, the stresses of life are so small in comparison to the larger picture of the world around me and God’s plan for it.
When I remind myself of the greater things at work and the vastness of God’s creation I can refocus myself on His will and put my plans, stresses, and goals into perspective. This greater God is the one I want to strive for, to go up to His mountain and dwell in the presence of him who would make such amazing things.
Yes, I love to ski, but the experience is also one that draws me to prayer. I can easily understand the prominent role mountains play in the Holy Scriptures.
Moses goes up the mountain to be close to the Lord and receive the Ten Commandments, directing humans to conform their will to the bigger picture of God’s plan for our freedom and truly living (Exodus 34:1-3). Elijah heard the Lord in the small whispering voice on the mountain (1 Kings 19:11-13). Jesus himself teaches the Beatitudes, a larger view of life focused on eternity, from the mount of Beatitude (Matthew 5). In going to the heights, we can in a small way draw closer to the Lord understanding His greatness, His greater plans for the world, and the immensity of His power.
In prayer, we relate to the God who created us, came to dwell among us, and to “reconcile all things to himself” (Colossians 1:20). We can turn to Him everywhere and anywhere. From a simple monastic church to our inner room, from the beautiful cathedrals of the world to a crowded subway on the way to work our God is there. But sometimes, exploring the creation of the world can help us to experience our creator and he is truly great. “God looked at everything that he had made, and called it very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Perhaps sometimes we should go out, look at what He made, and see its goodness as well.