Wednesday, May 15, 2013

She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain When She Comes

Just a heads up:  this post really lives up to the blog name, "theological ramblings."  No grand revelation today.  Just some (admittedly one sided) questions.

So, there's this phrase kicked around the Christian circles I've been in--"going round the mountain."  It's a loose reference to when the Israelites were in the wilderness after God freed them from Egypt.  They could have entered the promised land in a few short months, but they failed the test, didn't trust God, and ended up wandering in the desert, going around the mountain, for 40 years, until that untrusting generation died.  When the phrase is used in Christianese it means something like not learning a lesson, therefore having to travel a long journey again, only to face the same lesson/test again.  But generally it takes more time the second (or third or fourth) go round, and is more painful.  The phrase also implies wasting or squandering time or opportunity. 

I'm a really good student.  That's in large part because I'm a great test taker.  Academically, I love tests.  When I worked in pest control, the company was trying to move into treating roses, which required an endorsement that almost no one had.  So they said anyone who passed the test and got that endorsement on their license would get a $500 bonus.  You want to pay me to pass a test?  That's freakin' awesome!  I was one of the first to get that endorsement.  (And I've been looking for the job that would pay me to take tests ever since.  Let me know if you hear of something like that, ok?)

But (there's always a big but in the way, isn't there?) that's just academic tests.  When it comes to life tests, I get petrified and paralyzed.  Terrified that I'm going to screw it up, and end up going around that mountain again.  The pressure mounts when some other bible verses start kicking around my head.  Like "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6).  And Mark 9:19, where after the transfiguration, Jesus says to his disciples who can't heal a mute possessed boy, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?  How long am I to bear with you?"  When faced with a situation that requires action, and that situation looks similar to some other situation I've been in before, I'm frozen.  I don't want to get it wrong, fail, waste time.  When I'm stuck not knowing what to do, I realize I don't have faith in any of the options I have.  I get more stuck.  If I'm clueless about what to do, how can anything I do please God?  I don't want to miss out on achieving all that could be achieved.  It's a vicious cycle.  Much like thrashing about in quicksand, and only getting sucked deeper down. 

There's a passage in the book, The Shack, that comes back to me from time to time.  The character Mackenzie is talking with God, aka Papa.  (If you haven't read this book, you should.)

"Why do you love someone who is such a screw-up?  After all the things I've felt in my  heart toward you and all the accusations I made, why would you even bother to keep trying to get through to me?"

"Because that is what love does," answered Papa.  "Remember, Mackenzie, I don't wonder what you will do or what choices you will make.  I already know.  Let's say, for example, I am trying to teach you how not to hide inside of lies, hypothetically of course," she said with a wink. "And let's say that I know it will take you forty-seven situations and events before you will actually hear me--that is, before you will hear clearly enough to agree with me and change.  So when you don't hear me the first time, I'm not frustrated or disappointed, I'm thrilled.  Only forty-six more times to go.  And that first time will be a building block to construct a bridge of healing that one day--that today--you will walk across."  (pg 186-187)

While that's a really cool story, and potentially very freeing, it's fiction.  Now, fiction is a great conveyor of truth!  But, not everything in fiction is truth.  I'm a big big fan of orthodoxy and orthopraxy (right belief and right action).  So I'm cautious in wholeheartedly embracing the idea of this quote.  But the thought occurred, what if God views "going 'round the mountain" not as failure, but as a step closer? 

Tuesday, I was walking and thinking, and it seemed like God asked me a few questions.  One was, "Do you trust Me?" with a certain situation implied.  To which I sheepishly, but honestly, replied, "No."  He asked a couple other questions, and I answered those, too, sheepishly, but honestly.  Then I said, "And I know these aren't the right answers."  It seemed that God replied, with some passion, "I don't want right answers.  I want your heart." 

Here is where the pithy closing line of the blog comes, where it closes things nicely, or hooks you with a cool twist on a thought, and you come back for more.  But I don't have a pithy closing line for this one.  I just have a desire to go hiking this weekend and see if God might want to elaborate. 

photo credit: bretvogel via photopin cc


  1. Delightful!
    been with a new friend in Phoenix for a week. He's quite good at thinking things thru and also able with academic exams. But a test of faith? Can't think it through, and as no amount of intellectual prep can bring him through.
    Keep on hiking, dear sister!

  2. Thank you, Marshall. I appreciate the encouragement!