Catch a bus from Keswick in the North of the Lake District and you can travel into the remote heart of the fells and villages, leaving the realities of the modern day far behind. At the end of the bus route you are left walking on a well-trod path up to the highest peak in England. Once up and over you can drop down and emerge in to the Wasdale valley.
The valleys remote glacial lake surrounded by mountains on all sides never ceases to diminish a sense of wondrous awe. A place where the problems of life are put in to perspective against the backdrop of the unimaginable forces that shaped the ground before you.
Your mind, body and spirit are transported to a different world, lifted by the power of creation. “Though the earth gives way and the mountains fall in to the heart of the sea”, “We will not fear”, for “God is with us” (from Psalm 46). As these words float through your consciousness, the truth of God’s awesome might leave you without words.
As the day comes to a close, there is a peace that rests on your heart as you eat your supper at the top of your last fell for the day. In the last light of what has been a beautifully sunny day, all you can do is breathe in the beauty of what is seen. All that exists is simple. It’s you with nature.
The tranquillity of these days in the mountains can leave you set apart from reality, but in sleeping outdoors, in the mountains, you can wake up to a completely different world – one that is challenging. Low cloud, strong winds, poor visibility in drizzly rain and 11 miles of rugged terrain and mountain tops before you reach the road and a bus back home.
You have no option other than to persevere and endure. As you pass over the dark igneous rock of the eighth highest summit in Cumbria, there is a deep satisfaction that comes in the face of a gritty determination to survive the elemental forces of nature that come against you.
Clouds moving fast across your path as each step you take forward is an effort against an unrelenting wind and only your eyes are uncovered by the fabric of your outerwear to stop your skin freezing on exposure.
There is a sense of solitude in this struggle, one that leaves you aware of the depth and strength of the spirit that dwells within us. In our human search for freedom, we can feel this but have no words to explain it, until we realise that we are never truly alone and it is God with us.
The freedom we find in adversity is in being set apart from fear. Nothing is stronger than the spirit we realise on the inside. But it is in the quiet places, the places of solitude that we find it, and in the busyness of the world we can lose it again.
These mountain top experiences though valuable, can distract us from what matters most in life. Journeys in the mountains can easily equate to the journeys we take in life, but completing a route all too often makes us strive for the goal of achievement rather than focusing on the importance of how we get there. We can become addicted to external successes and ignore our inner selves.
Having been on many journeys, I can say being alone in nature’s wilderness is easy for me. What God has shown me on my walk with Him is that the journey we take every day through life is often the hardest and the one we try to avoid.
Being in a room full of people, and not known is much harder than summiting a mountain. Often we have the fear of rejection, but this is a false imagination, because the reality is we actually need to be accepting of ourselves. Slipping back in to patterns of behaviour I developed as a child, I can often appear self-reliant and independent instead of trusting that people won’t hurt me. A strategy that is a barrier to being vulnerable and building deep friendships with others.
Then we also have expectations on others and how they should be, but here we have simply fallen in to judgement. I actually once walked to the top of a mountain without starting a conversation with a friend because having taken on the responsibility of initiating most of conversation previously, I was determined not to make it too easy for him! I felt I had been vulnerable, now it was his turn. I can tell you that did not turn out as I hoped and instead the experience taught me that having the courage to be first, and sacrificing your peace of mind in the short-term is more important to gain the satisfaction of genuine relationship in the longer term.
All people have a basic desire to feel valued and important. We share this common need and are frequently ignorant of how we push others away from us. My own deep sensitivity was hidden and I was out of touch with my emotions until I started walking in step with the tender heart of Jesus.
By the overwhelming presence of Jesus’ love the resilient mountain walker is being shown how to embrace and befriend her emotions. Loving and accepting yourself is the way to loving others. Receiving God’s love into the depths of our souls is the only way of being able to give it freely to others.
Opening up and letting people in to your life requires courage, but there is no fear with Jesus who tells us we are lovable and just as beautiful in our human frailties as we are in our strengths. Trusting God with all of our heart is a deep belief that if we stumble, we know He will pick us up and carry us in His loving embrace to a place of safety.
Loving Father, thank You for Your steadfast love, thank You Jesus for Your sacrifice of love on the cross. Thank You Lord for guiding us and accepting us with Your tender hearted embrace, just as we are. We ask for the courage to love others as much as You love us. In Jesus name. Amen.