Somedays you wake up ready to take on the day, as they say. I’m not sure who “they” are, but I’m sure they have a thick Australian accent. You wake up hearing them — “Let’s take on the day”! Those Aussies. I love days like that. The shower is the perfect temperature, the coffee is right, the kids are acting like they’re from a 50’s TV sitcom. Today was not one of those days. I don’t remember the shower, but I do remember that the coffee was mysteriously cold. The kids were good, but I was not. I don’t think I was a pain to be around, but I was tired and unfocused in all regards. I got to my morning prayers late and they were interrupted. I wasn’t getting anything done at the office, and above all I couldn’t seem to quiet my thoughts. By about eleven o’clock it all started to get to me so I took off for Line Creek Nature Area. This is a beautiful place where my wife and I sometimes take the kids on a hike. The trees are tall and their roots cover a lot of the hilly trail. Not a very stroller friendly place I have found. One of the trails will take you to Flat Shoals where there is a slow flowing creek. Line Creek is less than five minutes from where I work, but for whatever reason, I have never been there by myself. Most days when I come in the office, closing my office door is usually all it takes. Today, I knew I needed to go somewhere quiet to better hear from God.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain’”.
I love the story of God showing Moses his glory (here is an amazing post on seeing God’s glory from my wife), but my favourite part of the story is what is not written, only alluded to. Imagine God reveals to you that He is going to meet with you tomorrow. He tells you to get up early and climb a certain mountain because He will meet you at it’s peak. You are to go alone. Can you sleep the night before the climb? What is it like to awaken the dawn and look at the two stone tablets that you carefully laid out the night before, the words are still fresh in your ears, “and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which YOU broke? With everybody still asleep, you carefully pick up these two tables with the same reverence that you would pick up a newborn, put them securely under your arms and walk. You’ve walked this path a thousand times before, but today the path is aglow with a fire that is not consumed. You keep your shoes on. You walk. Each step deliberate, you walk. Like Buechner says, “even silence keeps silent”. You walk, and walk, until — you stop. You are at the base of the mountain. As you look up you can see the top of the mountain which has a faint glow. The sun is rising, you need to move. You close your eyes, inhale slowly and clench the tablets in your hands. Exhale. You climb.
I got in my car and set off like Moses to meet with God. When I arrived at the base of my mountain four minutes later, I realized that not everyone was asleep. There were large trucks and bobcats moving the gravel around. They couldn’t have been louder. I parked anyway and grabbed my two tablets — my Kindle and my Common Prayer book. While last nights rain brought these cursed trucks to fix the parking lot, it also made the creek, which is normally quite still, flow rapidly. I could hear the creek long before I got there and the closer I got the more it drown out the sound of the everything but the birds chirping. My mind was still cluttered. I prayer some prayers from my Common Prayer book and read some scripture. I had a thin sweater on, but the sun was too warm for that so I took it off and placed it behind me. I also placed my tablets down and sat silent before God. I felt a presence near me. As I opened my eyes, a wet brown lab ran right past and scared me half to death. I would have dropped and broken my tablet if I were still holding it I’m sure. I realized that I must have looked foolish being scared by the dog so I turned around to see if it’s owner noticed. There was no owner. That’s when it hit me — this must be a stray. Now I was worried about rabies. Thankfully, the owner soon appeared and I realized that I was not in the danger I had imagined. They went around the corner. I continued to pray. More dogs. Didn’t these people realize they were supposed to keep their flocks and herds at home? I prayed a bit longer, picked up my bag and headed back towards the trucks not sure that my experience was quite the same as Moses’.
When I got back to the parking lot I noticed something I didn’t see before. There were men driving these trucks. Before, all I could hear was the noise and all I could see were machines. When I returned, I saw people — men with families who would park these trucks later today to head home and have dinner with their families. I didn’t hear, “The Lord, The Lord”, but something happened. When you are filled with noise, all you can hear and all you can see is noise. But, when you head away from the noise towards the sound of the water, you can return to the noise with a different perspective. Henri Nouwen talks about the movement from “Opaqueness to Transparency” — from looking at something to seeing through it. I think that happened to me today. “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”