I live on some property just outside of Boerne that backs up to an enormous hill. I won’t call it a “mountain”, but darn it, it’s pretty tall. It has to be one of the taller hills in the area. My property does not run to the top of the hill, but I got a wild hair the other day and figured that it was about time that I climb that old hill.
I jumped a fence, then another, ducked under countless cedar trees, and after a half dozen stops to catch my breath, I reached the top of the hill. I sat down at the top and was simply overwhelmed. I’m 6 miles outside Boerne and I could see the water tower on School Street clearly. I could see miles in every direction, and it took me minutes to take it all in. The wind was pretty blustery, but the skies were blue and the vistas stretched endlessly.
Once my feeble mind had processed the scope of the entire sight, I was able to simply sit and enjoy. Slowly my thoughts melted away like ice cream and eventually it was a most precious moment to simply sit, enjoy, and be peaceful. I thought about how lucky I was, how much I love my family, and how my life was going. I was at peace.
After a while I thought about how ridiculous it is that sometimes we must travel to such great lengths to find peace. Why can I not have this feeling of peace while sitting in my warm living room? Why must I climb Mt. Everest to find solace? I realized that sometimes peace can be hard to come by.
Author Catherine Marshall tells a story I really like in one of her books: “A king once offered a prize to the artist who could paint the best picture of peace. Many tried, but there were only two the king really liked. One was of a calm lake. It was a perfect mirror for the peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds.
The other picture had mountains too. But they were rugged and bare. Above them was an angry sky from which fell rain, and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountains tumbled a waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the king looked closely he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in spite of the rush of angry water, she sat on her nest – in perfect peace. Which picture do you think won the prize? The king chose the second picture. Why? ‘Because,’ explained the king, ‘Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. Peace means to be in the middle of all these things and still be calm in your heart.’”
After reading that, it really struck a chord with me. Don’t we all complain about the noise that surrounds us? Don’t we all bemoan our stresses at work, our troubles at home, and our empty bank accounts? And I’m probably worst than most.
My job is killing me, taxes are wiping me out, and deadlines are constantly looming. Next month is going to be rough at work, this summer is going to be stressful, and next fall will be wild. I stress out about events that are months away and that may not even happen. And then I wonder why I can’t find my “peace”.
One of my favorite verses is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I can resist temptation, I can be successful, and I can even find peace if I want it. Basically, I can do anything. However, in order to do that, I must understand where my strength comes from. Is it my ambition? Sort of. Is it my perseverance? It helps. But my real strength comes from Christ and my ability to shut my trap for a minute, sit still, and focus on Him. I must close off the world for a moment, my own worries, and my outside distracters and allow Him to put His arms around me and reassure me.
The world is a noisy, dirty place. Without the presence of mind to SEEK your solace, you’ll never attain it. As we enter a new year, I pray that you’ll find a “mountain”, pack some water and go on an adventure. Even if your backyard has nothing more than the kid’s jungle gym.