Morning prayer this day offers a familiar invitation from the Prophet Isaiah:

Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”

As I read this, my mind went immediately to the experience of actually climbing a mountain in October.  A group of us were elk hunting and while we were scouting, we spotted a group of ‘missing cows’ overlooked by the rancher during the Fall roundup.  They had found a place of good pasture near the top of the mountain.  The four of us looked at each other and said:  “Should we go get them?”  There was a hearty “Yes” that was filled with excitement.  That excursion paralleled in many ways the invitation of Isaiah in our spiritual journey to the LORD.

First of all, we started out with excitement and enthusiasm.  Who in their spiritual journey does not do the same?  We long to see God face to face.  We desire an intimate, personal relationship with God.  (Which by the way, we believe is possible through our intimacy with Jesus – whom God sent into the world that we might know him personally, intimately, in all things.)

The initial incline was gradual; easy going.  But, quickly, the grade increased, and our enthusiasm had to be channelled into physical stamina.  The progress slowed to smaller steps.  Stopping was required numerous times along the way to regain one’s breath and energy.  The spiritual journey is much the same.  We may make great progress early, seemingly effortless.  But then, the journey begins to slow, even plod along.  There are times when we feel as if we are making no progress what-so-ever.  (These are important moments – required to catch one’s breath in the presence of God – and ponder the graces  given thus far.  These are the moments we are asked to allow the breath of God, the Holy Spirit to fill our sails.  This is the moment the Word of God speaks, and we are silent.)

At some point in the ascent, it was evident we could no longer go ‘straight at the cows’ due to difficult terrain.  We had to look ahead to map out the best route.  Our journey or ascent to God is much the same way.  We cannot go ‘straight at God.’  His preference is most always through hidden, quiet, unexpected paths.  This requires us to understand that we do not map our way – we simply enter into the journey and trust the Lord to lead by the best path possible to his abode.  Our prayer may often make us feel that we have lost sight of God, but in faith, we travel on knowing that sight is not the most important element, but rather, his unseen, abiding presence that guides us during every moment of life.  (Somewhere Scripture says: We walk by faith, and not by sight.)

Finally, as we neared the top, things got really dicey!  We hit the screed line, and every step involved a certain amount of slipping.  It required every once of focus and attention one could muster.  Of course, at this point, we were growing tired, the incline was steep, but the commitment was made and we pressed on.  Our spiritual journey can lead to slippery moments as well.  We grow weary and can encounter many doubts that cause us to ‘slip’ and even fall, if not stop praying altogether.  These are the moments when we are to remain faithful, and trust that God is always faithful, and all things are possible with God. 

Press on in prayer and faith, my friends.  Know that this “mountain of the LORD” is crawling with many others on the same journey by different paths.  There is much company, as I experienced in my climb.  Many others that can encourage us, call to us, share their experience.  But mostly, the LORD is with us, guiding the way, keeping us safe, and granting us glimpses of his loving face along the way!

O, and by the way, we got the cows off the mountain, and back to their owners!