Moore: The view from here
Late last summer I received an unexpected phone call. It was around 6:45 on a Tuesday morning as I was walking from my car into a men’s Bible study at my favorite valley breakfast place. The call was from my son, and I answered quickly, always happy to hear his voice.
“Hey, my man, good to hear from you! What’s up?”
“Dad, you’ll never guess where I am.” He was right.
“I’m standing on top of Mount Elbert. Been here since before daybreak”
It turns out that he and a few friends had driven through the evening from Denver to the Mount Elbert trailhead, slept an hour, and started hiking sometime after midnight. Seeing the trail only through their headlamps, they summited early enough to silently stand in awe as the sun rose upon one of the Rocky Mountain’s most spectacular vistas. It was the view from 14,439 feet — the highest point in Colorado.
I stood there in the parking lot, imagining that view. In the immediate foreground are your friends, all standing with you in amazement. There is the close detail of fragile tundra vegetation clinging to the mountainside, and then your trail receding into the distance. From here you can see the distant valley floor, the glow of civilization along Highway 24, and the peaks surrounding you on the horizon. It’s almost impossible to take it all in, and so you just stand in awe, marveling at the miracle of God’s creation.
I open my eyes, and I’m back in the parking lot. It’s the view from 7,431 feet, currently dominated by the beer truck bearing down on me with its morning delivery. Not exactly the summit of Elbert, but it’s life right now. I head into Bob’s for the morning coffee, fellowship, and a generous helping of God’s Word. Ahh… God and coffee! A nice view indeed.
In the off chance, you don’t know, 8,150 feet is the elevation attributed to the town of Vail, and has come to represent the elevation — the “view of life” here in our valley.
We all have our view of life as it really is. For some, this may be a vista of joy and contentment. For others, the view of life right now may be defined by grief, struggle, and even sustained desperation and hopelessness. Many of you have been there, or stood alongside friends and family experiencing the same. Perhaps you’re there right now.
At the church where I pastor, we have just started a study in the Old Testament book of the Psalms, and they’ve reminded me of one reason I love the Bible so much. It’s this: the Bible never asks us to pretend that life isn’t what it really is. Religious culture often does this, but not the Bible. This is particularly true in the Psalms, where you regularly see brutally honest cries of intense human emotion expressed by real people caught up in extreme circumstances.
“My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” That’s from Psalm 42. The really amazing thing is that for the ancient Hebrews, this type of honesty wasn’t offensive to God, it was considered worship of God — and it still is.
The Hebrew Psalms are the largest collection of ancient lyrical poetry in existence, and they defy a tidy summation. That would be like trying to describe the view from Elbert in 140 characters.
This said, here’s a snapshot of the Psalms from 8,150 feet. God never asks you to pretend. Never. He never asks us to pose, to wear a mask, fake a smile and say everything’s OK, or to hold back in honestly expressing the depths of our soul.
Inseparable from this is the equally honest reality that there is always hope. The cave is never so deep that hope is lost. A remarkable trait of the Psalms is that every heart-cry of lament, no matter how gut-wrenching it may be, ultimately resolves in a confession of hope.
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” That’s the end of Psalm 42.
Friends, the message of scripture is that in the midst of life as it really is, God beckons us to receive the life only he can give. There is great hope, and no pretending. If you’re up for a talk, I’ll buy the coffee.