I love living in Arizona.
I love the warm sun. I love the landscape of mountains with the earthy tones from the cacti and desert dirt.
Now, being “outdoorsy” is not a word I would first characterize myself as. Sure, growing up I loved going fishing at our cabin. Making trails in the woods on the four-wheeler is one of my favorite ways to pass time in Minnesota and hiking Camelback is a weekly activity at school, but I’ll want a shower and an espresso afterwards.
Sorry not sorry.
That being said, I appreciate nature. I think we should be good stewards of it (but that’s for another post).
I think we can learn from the creativity of God’s creation. I think there are implications for theology seen in the mountains and intricate vegetation.
Here are some metaphors I’ve reflected on while living in this terrain:
“I feel spiritually dry”.
This is probably something you’ve said (or avoided saying in order to ‘save face’), but we’ve all been there. (If you haven’t ever felt this, send me a message and I’d love to know the secret)
This year has been especially hard for me in this regard. I feel like I’m doing all the “right” things. I spend time praying, reading Scripture each morning, not skipping a Sunday of church, yet I feel like I’m in a season wondering where the joy of following Jesus went. God, why do you feel silent?
Pursuing a degree in ministry, the pressure to have it all together is an unspoken reality. But it’s ok to have questions. I find myself learning about deep theology and instead of my faith growing, I just feel like I have more confusion. Was ignorance the bliss of my faith?
Even in writing this, I feel like I’ve made edits just to sugar coat some of the most raw and honest feelings I’ve had.
I know I can bring my doubts to Him. I know God is faithful. I know joy comes in the morning.
I am still pursuing in eager anticipation. I will hold tight to Him even when I don’t “feel like it”
This is also a time for a heart check. Where am I falling short? Am I confessing those sins to God? If I am consistently judging others or lusting after the things I don’t have, of course I’m going to feel further from God.
But, my focus needs to be on loving Jesus not the trap of religion or the temptation to divide on small doctrinal issues.
In the Heat
When I was in Israel, it was hot. Mid-July in the Middle East wearing maxi skirts and full-coverage shirts was miserable to say the least.
When I move into school every year, I question why I picked to live in a place that consistently reaches temperatures hotter than 100 degrees, but I can’t imagine what the Israelites felt like without the relief of air conditioning.
I’ve felt heat in other ways of my life.
Being in unhealthy romantic relationships, I have known what it’s like to be panting for alleviation.
But, God is with us in the moments we are overcome with exhaustion. He will bring the cooler night of relief.
Mountains & Valleys
There is something about being on top of a mountain.
First, there is a wave of happiness knowing the battle of the hike is over. Then, you look out and you can’t help but feel small compared to the vast civilization below. Perspective is gained with an aerial view.
But, we need to remember to bow low in high places. With a humble heart, it is God who elevates His people to places of influence in his time.
The Bible uses the imagery of mountains and valleys over and over again.
Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”
Isaiah 54:10 “‘Though the mountains by shaken and hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valet of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me”
This reminds me of a song that the kids I nannied for this summer would belt in the back of my car.
If you’re on a mountain top, praise God. If you’re in the valley, praise God. He is using the season you’re in for an eternal, greater purpose.
Have you ever thought about how ornate plants are? The details in design and organized processes are fascinating to me. God’s design and attention to the smallest of matters is revealing of his character.
The cactus is one of my favorite plants. My roommate and I have a couple in our dorm and it’s probably the only plant I could keep alive at this point of my life. One writer explained his love for the cactus this way:
It grows where no other plant will grow. It does not complain when the sun bakes it or the wind tears it from the cliff or drowns it in the dry sand of the desert or when it is thirsty.
When the rain comes it stores water for the hard times to come. In good times and in bad it will still flower. It protects itself against danger, but it harasses no other plant. It adapts perfectly to almost any environment. It has patience and enjoys solitude.
Lets be more like the cactus.
We also get to plant life. As followers of Jesus, we get the privilege and responsibility to sow seeds. Sharing our faith is non-negotiable for Christians and is not reserved for the “super spiritual” to do.
I’ve found that the times I am investing into planting seeds, the love in my heart starts to grow more for humanity and for God.
While these are just silly ways to describe my journey with Christ this year, I want to walk with you. If you’re feeling spiritually parched need relief in the heat, scared to share your faith, or praising God from the mountain top, let’s talk! We weren’t meant to hike this life on our own.
*This post was done in collaboration with my beautiful friend @mckenna_thome. Check her out! She has the kindest heart and the ability to bring people confidence through art of photography.*