As I was running on one of my favorite trails this morning, called the Boneyard, I couldn't help thinking about one of my favorite psalms. This trail is littered not just with animal bones, but with rocks, roots, and ruts. You really have to keep your head down and your eyes focused on the ground ahead of you if you don't want to trip and fall (been there, done that).
It was one of those rare, foggy mornings in our valley. But as the trail wound its way up Bellyache Ridge, the fog began to thin. Finally, I emerged at the top in brilliant sunlight. The valley below was still shrouded in fog, but the peaks of New York Mountain were glistening with fresh snow, set against brilliant blue skies. No longer could I keep my eyes on the trail. I just had to look up at those mountains!
"I lift up my eyes to the hills," begins the 121st Psalm. Psalm 121 is one of the so-called "Psalms of Ascents." These psalms were most likely sung by Jewish pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the Old Testament festivals, such as Passover. As pilgrims, traveling in bands, making the long journey to Jerusalem, their eyes would automatically be drawn up as they gazed at the holy city rising before them from the low-lying surrounding valley.
But the psalmist wasn't just writing about the awe-inspiring sight the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding hills offered. Those heights reminded him and his fellow pilgrims of the One whom they were going to worship: "Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."
As I lifted my eyes to the sun-bathed, snow-covered hills on my morning run, I, too, couldn't help but think of the One who created them. The majesty of the mountains is but a reflection of the greater majesty of the Creator of those mountains. The beauty God allows us to view in them pales in comparison to the far more beautiful grace he showed by giving up his Son for us.
But I hardly had time to enjoy the view at the top of the trail. Soon, I was heading down the other side, back toward the Eagle Ice Rink and Pool, back into the dense fog. This is where the trail gets particularly treacherous. If you don't want to take a nasty header, you'd better keep your eyes down, focused on the trail! Yet even then, my thoughts turned to Psalm 121. "He will not let your foot slip," wrote the psalmist.
What a wonderful reminder and promise that is for us. Whether you're on a mountain trail or just making your way through the twists and turns of life, it's easy for us to become focused only on the challenges and problems we encounter, fixing our attention only on them. Yes, we need to pay attention to what's going on in our lives. But don't forget the promises of our Creator and Savior. He says, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." He assures us, "I will work good in all things for you." He comforts us, "As far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your transgressions from you."
Lift up your eyes to the hills. Remember the One who created them. But don't trip and fall! Instead, trusting in his grace and power, move forward to serve him and love each other.
- Brent Merten is pastor of Mountain Valley Lutheran Church, 802 Brush Creek Terrace, Eagle.