Spiritual Growth

Going the Distance (and Height)

img1491187210827“You have to go through those mountains and valleys–because that’s what life is: soul growth.” – Wayne Newton

Exactly two weeks ago today, my husband and I drove up the famous Mount Wilson peak in the San Gabriel mountains. We were in California for a few days and my husband¬†was looking for an adventure that he could live to talk about later. I just wanted to get close to the famous landmark that is the Hollywood sign. It didn’t occur to me that I would need to travel 6,000 feet off the ground to accomplish my goal.

As we began to ascend on the rocky, narrow winding path leading to the Mount Wilson Observatory, I looked out my window and down. I instinctively held on to the sides of my seat and pleaded with my husband to turn the car around. “Let’s go back. I don’t want to go up there!” I yelled. He told me to calm down. The nerve of him! Did I mention that I am afraid of heights…and my husband’s driving? He had his foot on the accelerator like one of those speed racers in Fast and the Furious (ok, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit, but you get my drift).

My heart was racing and my breathing was short. I couldn’t take it, but my husband kept going…and thank God he did. When we had finally reached the point of no return, which was an expansive parking lot filled with cars, I stopped panicking. I rushed out the car as if it was some sort of gas chamber and was surprised to notice that the air seemed much¬†cooler and fresher up the mountains than it did on the ground.

Unfortunately, we were still a little too far from the sign (it was east from where we were), but I was over it once I caught the view of the city and the other mountains. It was beautiful! Not to mention the lavender sky with the splashes of orange right above the horizon and the gleaming Pacific Ocean. The sun was setting and it was casting a nice glow over the peak from which we stood.

I felt calm. It was as if the beauty of my surroundings had me in a trance, making me forget all of my fears and worries.

My experience made me think of Lot, Abraham’s stubborn nephew who refused to go up the mountains when the angels of the Lord instructed him to do so. It is likely that the angels pointed in the direction of the mountains in the west where Abraham was. But Lot chose to settle in the little town of Zoar. His reasoning? “I will die up the mountains!” he told the angels. He was afraid, which kept him from obeying God.

For years, Lot had been sinning against God. He left his greed unchecked and that caused him to take the “best land” for himself. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having property and wealth unless they keep you from walking in God’s will. Abraham walked in God’s will, which is why he did not end up in Lot’s predicament in Sodom. The path that Lot chose led him to greed, sexual immorality, drunkenness and eventually incest (although his daughter’s initiated that sin).

The angels were trying to get him back on the right track, but his pride would not let him comply. Having everything to having nothing only to have to depend on his uncle, Abraham…that was the ultimate humble pie. Lot did not want any servings of that. No, thank you. “Let me settle in Zoar,” he said. When he was finally ready to go up the mountain, it appears that he went east of Zoar to the region of Moab, opposite from where Abraham was and where the angels sent him in the beginning.

In retrospect, Lot missed out on an opportunity to experience God’s unfailing love, including a divine transformation. Ultimately, his unwillingness to confess his sins, repent and obey God led to his demise as well as his family’s. God was gracious enough to spare his life, but there was no way God was going to beg Lot to go higher and dwell in His mountain. That was Lot’s choice to make, just like it is ours. Unlike Lot, we have to be willing to go higher in order to grow. Salvation is simply not enough to transform us.

I can’t say for sure that God led me to the mountain away from the Hollywood sign (which has come to symbolize fame, wealth, and status), but I know for certain that nothing is ever wasted with Him. Going up that mountain afraid and seeing God’s creations from atop caused me to be in awe of Him, which I probably would have missed if I was busy taking selfies next to a man-made sign.

It also taught me that no matter how scary the journey of life gets, God always has my best interest at heart. His purpose is always to take me (and you) to new heights in Him…for His glory!