Monday, May 12, 2014

On the Mountain with God

"Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.  The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days.  And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud." Ex 24:15-16

Have you ever been following God up a mountain, or walking across a sunny field with him in silence?  Just basking in his presence.  On a cold day, like every day of this winter has been,  I think back to warm summer days.  I am laying on the hammock we used to have in our backyard, soaking up the warmth of the sun, looking up at the beauty of a turquoise sky contrasted with the green leaves and brown bark of the big tree in the middle of the yard.  I would just close my eyes and soak in that moment.  Warmth, beauty, safety, peace washed over me in that moment.  Even the sound of a car driving by or a plane flying overhead did not distract, rather they were the normalcy of my life, they reminded me that all this beauty and peace was part of my every day life.

This is what I think of when I read the passage about Moses going up on the mountain and having God's glory rest on top in the form of a cloud.  Now honestly, while it sounds spiritually cool, physically it just sounds cold to be up in a mountain with a cloud covering me.  Beautiful and fun for a moment as long as I am dressed right but as time passes...Well, I am going to have to imagine that God's cloud presence is warm and beautiful not cold and beautiful.  Otherwise the wimp in me would say, "OK thanks God, this was fun, got to go now," after just a few hours.  I mean if I was covered in God's glory I don't think I would be miserable, pretty sure it would be awesome and I would never want to leave.  Adjust your imagination accordingly.

So there we are on a mountain covered in the glory of the Lord waiting for him to tell me what to do next.  Now I don't know about you but I love vacations where I can just lay on the beach and do nothing.  Just soak up the warm sun.  But then I prop myself up to watch people walk by and then I am looking to read a book or a magazine.  Then I need to walk down the beach to move around a little and pretty soon I NEED SOMETHING TO DO!  What is the point of just laying on the beach doing nothing?  And for 6 days that is all Moses was doing.  Just sitting there basking in God's glory.  Again, I am sure it was amazing but even when I am in the most wonderful of worship services where God is so clearly present I get wiggly.  Which is not to say that actually witnessing a cloud of God's glory isn't far more powerful than singing the crescendo to How Great Thou Art or 10,000 reasons or How Great is Our God, but still it is 6 days of Moses sitting in God's presence in silence.

So here we are in our life, in 2014.  And we are living our day to day life.  And while we might occasionally get to take a vacation from our life to follow God up a mountain and just sit there in his glory waiting for him to speak, most of the time we are all forced to live life while in God's presence.  We still follow God when he tells us to go up a mountain, and we might even find ourselves witnessing the glory of the Lord in our current circumstances of life having followed Him to this place.  But we are also surrounded by needy kids, work demands, responsibilities, problems, trials.

Maybe you followed God across the country to a new job, a new life, and while you see God's presence in this new place, you are lonely, don't have any friends, can't find a new church you like.  God is present but he is silent.  And you just don't understand what you are doing there.  Why did he lead you to this new place and then just sit back watching you struggle?

Or you are a new mom. God led you to leave your job where you were respected, had friends, put on nice clothes each day, and challenged your brain.  Now you spend your days with little people who are constantly disobeying you, questioning your authority, demanding your attention.  You are tired and wear jeans, a t-shirt and a ponytail every day.  You love being a mom and believe God paved the way for you to be home but you wish he would give you a little more direction.

God lead us to close our business, sell our house, send me back to work and send John on a 6+ year educational journey to become a Physician's Assistant.  And while we can see God's glory in the experience sometimes a little clearer message of what to do next or how to do it would be great.

So there is Moses, follows God up the mountain and is surrounded by a cloud of his glory.  And if I am Moses I am thinking, "OK here it comes, God's big speech."  Hands rubbing together in excitement.  And then I Just sit there for 6 days.  Fingers drumming on the rock beside me.

I think God does this to us on purpose.  I wrote about the Middle recently, that place in life between events.  Those 6 days are definitely the middle of this event for Moses.  Sometimes God gives us less than 6 days but sometimes he gives us more.  How long did the Father of the Prodigal wait for his son to return?  How about the years between the end of the Old Testament and Jesus' birth?

What do we do in the middle?  I wonder what Moses did?  I think he basked.  I think he also built a fire, maybe a little lean-to, gathered firewood, made dinner.  But always basking in God's presence.  I think that is the big point of the 6 days.  To let the reality of God, who He is, how powerful He is settle on Moses. If it was me I might start walking up the mountain like, "yeah, God wants to talk to me, I'm cool."  But then the cloud would settle on the mountain and I would spend 6 days staring at it and realizing how powerful God is and start thinking about how insignificant I am, and what a huge responsibility God has given me to lead his people.  And each day I think Moses might have felt a little more humbled.  At least that is how I would feel.

As I wait through John's education, through my career building, through challenging relationships and I turn to God who is present next to me but not always as chatty as I would like him to be.  As I seek to just know him better and be aware of who he is and what his plan is for my life, I do become humbled.  I am humbled that he would take time for me, believe I am capable of all he has put before me.

And usually as I am seeking to figure out God and my place in the world, I come face to face with my failings.  I become overwhelmed by how much sin, just from me, Jesus has taken on.  How much I have been forgiven.  And I become even more humbled.  I recently read an article about 20 things I wish I had known in my 20's.  Number 15 is "realize life is not about you."  It is so true, as we grow closer to God, as we come to understand our sin better and see His power surrounding us, suddenly I realize it isn't about me, it is about HIM.  Whatever is happening in my life right now, it is all about God and all for God.  And I am humbled to be part of His plan.  The good, the bad and the ugly of it all.

Then, after 6 days standing in God's glory, God speaks to Moses and calls him to actually come into his presence!  Not just look upon it but be in it!  WOAH.

And for 40 days and 40 nights Moses was in the physical presence of God.  Again, WOAH.

Coincidentally it rained for 40 days and 40 nights while Noah was in the arc.  Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 day.  And Lent is 40 days.

I wrote this during lent, don't know why I didn't publish it, but I think it is true every day.  Being aware of God's presence even when he doesn't speak, even when you feel like you are just standing there doing nothing.  As Christian's we often refer to "mountain top" experiences with God.  Those big high moments where you are in his presence and hear his voice.  We tend to seek out those experiences as if they are short exceptions to our day to day life.  But what if we can have mountain top experiences all the time?  Because we can, God is always present with us.  He doesn't come down in a cloud like he did in the old testament, he sent his Spirit to come and live in us.  So powerful.

Today I am standing on the mountain with God.

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