Monday, July 21, 2008

Rocky Mountain High

The silence of the mountains drew me in and took my breath away. The thin air filled my lungs with a vengeance and I could feel every heart beat. The higher we climbed, the freer I felt. In many ways, I was at home there.

12,000 feet. You met me there.

The blood in my veins was pounding fiercely against the camera strap around my neck. We reached the top of the trail and I watched as a handful of my friends cautiously traipsed around the tundra, taking care not to step on the lichens. I hung back for a while, hesitant to scale the set of boulders they had set their sights on. I hid behind my camera (my new addiction) and tried my best to capture the incredible scene around me. The unharnessed beauty of the mountains. The clouds that enveloped us. The chill of the tundra and the raw of the wild. My camera was useful, but it wasn’t the same as actually being up there.

Well, there’s no time like the present, my new friend Matt said, looking toward the thing that scared me most. It pushed me over the edge.

It’s just a rock, anyhow…

Somehow, I ended up there with them, after some prodding and a helping hand or two. Once I stopped clinging to the jagged rock beneath me and got up off my hands and knees, I took a deep breath and realized we were in the clouds. The wind picked up and pushed one toward us. We were taken aback as the misty cool touched our faces and slipped through our fingertips.

I came alive again.

It was in my lungs. My heart. My being. God met me there, in my breathless panic brought on by the insecurity of a high, unfamiliar place. I am terrified of heights, but yet I do things like ride the biggest rollercoaster at the amusement park, jump out of an airplane at 10,000 feet or climb up a boulder on the Rocky Mountain tundra. Even if it didn’t seem so daunting to my faithful companions, it was a significant moment for me.

I discovered my heart at 12,000 feet. Part of it is still there, tucked away next to a lake in the mountains that you can only see if you look closely enough. And even though coming alive exposed some deeply buried hurt in my heart, it also brought out a side of me that had long been dormant. It was a beautiful thing. I knew I would never be the same.

//

I held my hand against the momentum of the wind rushing around the car. I let the mountain air envelope me one last time and craned my neck to the west to look at those majestic peaks before they were swallowed up by the concrete of the city around us, and then by the expanse of the plains. It felt so wrong and so right at the same time, driving away from that place.

We had chased the sun to Colorado, and now we followed it home.

I feel alive, and it hurts for a change…I’m never going back to okay. I’m never going back to the way it was, the voice on the radio sang.

God has a way of speaking to me like that. Many times on the long drive home, I would be talking with my faithful friend/traveling companion or thinking about something, and a song would come on that would complement the moment perfectly. It usually left me speechless.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the mountains. The moments I knew God was there with me. The fond memories I created with some of my dearest friends. The uncontrollable laughter we shared and the adventures we conquered. These are times I know I will look back on for the rest of my life. This trip was both a beginning and an end…and I came out of it deeply changed.

Two full weeks later, I finally feel like I’m all here again. Sitting on my bed in the unassuming lands of Oklahoma, trying unsuccessfully to get to sleep. It took a weekend of worshipping Jesus to bring me back around. Singing and playing in a room at a church at 3 a.m. with my friends asleep on couches. We dedicated 24 hours to simply seeking and worshipping God. People came and went. Some paced, some sprawled out on the floor, some sat and prayed, some journaled and sang along, some slept. At times there was a full band, and other times the 2-hour sets were led humbly by a guy with dreadlocks and a guitar. In the end, it made me realize that I am right where I belong.

For as long as it took me to unwind from my trip, to pace (read: struggle) through a hectic couple of weeks and finally have some time to breathe and rest, I am so grateful for the faithfulness of my Father. As long as there is breath in my lungs and a heart inside me that beats, I will sing His praise and live out my life for Him. I know that My heart is in His hands.

And so it begins...

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