We all have experienced moments we wished wouldn’t end. They may have been intimate scenes or silly, fun ones.
For instance, I recall an exquisite piece of carrot cake that nearly raptured me. And the time I stepped into a pâtisserie famished from trekking and getting my first taste of flan. I could have eaten a pan of it.
Similarly, there are spiritual moments when the Lord satisfies us on our journey. I’ve experienced times when God’s presence seemed tangible. I’ve enjoyed windows when the gospel couldn’t be any clearer to me. Believe it or not, I’ve had instances when I grasped why my troubles must be.
Recently I shared a drawing featuring a bus traveling high on a mountain along a skinny and dangerous ridge. Inside are two riders experiencing two different views. One beholds a panoramic vista of mountains and valleys and a gorgeous sky.
Mountaintop experiences—who doesn’t love them? It’s at those times that one observes all they’ve mastered and they discover new things. Still, the refreshing stream and cool shade in the valley and there discerning God’s sweet voice in the silence…that too is rewarding.
But mountains and valleys aren’t designed for habitation. Further, mountains experience ferocious storms and valleys get washed out. Instead, we look for plains and plateaus, places where the land levels. Life is easier made there though less dramatic.
Moreover, we must be cautious about living for spiritual experiences. They are given with purpose, for the mountain and for the valley; unfortunately, the plain isn’t nearly as exciting. There we have to live by faith and sometimes perceive God by his silhouette and apparent absence.
C.S. Lewis says something very appropriate:
“The presence of God is not the same as the sense of the presence of God…The act which engenders a child ought to be, and usually is attended by pleasure. But it is not the pleasure that produces the child. Where there is pleasure there may be sterility: where there is no pleasure the act may be fertile. And in the spiritual marriage of God and the soul it is the same. It is the actual presence, not the sensation of the presence, of the Holy Ghost which begets Christ in us. The sense of the presence is a super-added gift for which we give thanks when it comes.”
Thus, I can be grateful for the carrot cake; I can be grateful for the flan. They are delicacies given on the mountain and in the valley. But the spiritual man does not live on treats alone. I must learn in the mediocre place I reside that God’s reality is the same as I knew it…on the mountain and in the valley. He steps out and reveals himself there, but he never leaves.