I heard a sermon once on mountains and valleys in our spiritual journey. It was a great lesson and has stuck with me over the years. The pastor talked about our spiritual journey and the highs and lows and the contrast and importance of both.
Mountain top experiences are important in our walk with God. There are a number of stories in the Bible recounting God meeting with and speak to people on the top of mountains. We all want those experiences. Conference, summer camps, sermons, and personal devotions. Seasons where God is so close we feel as though we could physically touch Him. Those moments when we know He is speaking to us with startling clarity.
In contrast valley's aren't as popular. When we think of the word valley in the Bible I think it's safe to say many of us jump strait to Psalms 23. Valley's are the low places in our journey. It's where we encounter pain and doubt and questioning. The speaker pointed something out that we often over look the fact that while mountain's are wonderful, things grow in the valley. We all desire mountain top experiences, but it's often in the valley's that we grow. The struggling that comes with our spiritual valleys can bring forth a lot of fruit.
It's a wonderful analogy. But he forget something. He forgot Kansas.
Let me explain.
I have spent all but 3 years of my life living on the East Coast. My roots run deep into Maryland's sandy soil and Virginia's red clay. But my younger brother and I are the only ones in my family who can say that. To my parents and grandparents the Mid West is home. My mother is a Midwest farmer's daughter, and my dad's great grandfather was a circuit preacher. Starting in their 20s my parents started migrating East to eventually settle in Maryland, but Kansas and Illinois especially are sacred places for my family.
While salt water my run in my veins, my father's are fill with the Colorado mountain stream water. And so, as often as he could my dad would round up as my of his six kids as possible, pile us into a mini van and drive from Maryland to Colorado and back. Personally I have made this trip three times that I can remember, though pictures show more trips than that.
To get from where we were to where we going we had to pass through Kansas. It's a long drive. Land locked on every said Kansas is flat. No mountains, no valleys, not even hills. Flat strait roads as for miles. Valley's my be lush, but Kansas feeds America. Over 88% of Kansas land is farm land. Over 9 million acres of wheat and 4 million acres of corn are planted there every year. I looked it up. It may not be much as far as scenery goes, but it get's the job done.
I think back to those drives across Kansas. Mile after mile of predictable scenery. It wasn't the forests and streams of home or the wilderness of mountains we were driving towards. It was the in between place. It held little interest to my adolescent imagination, but it was necessary to get where we were going.
When we see our faith as all mountains and valleys we loose perspective.
We expect everything to be either an emotional high, or a season of crisis.
Most of life is lived in the middle.
The day to day of our faith.
Reading our Bibles even when it doesn't seem to make a difference.
Choosing to loves those around us.
Walking the dog.
Diving car pools.
Interacting with our co workers.
Showing up and choosing to stay engaged when what we see before us is the exact same thing we see behind us and there doesn't seem to be any change in sight.
It may not be the popular thing to say, but some times faith is about going through the motions when things seem flat. We shy away from these seasons saying that they are lukewarm, or that we fill in-authentic. We are afraid of a faith that is about checking boxes. We become so wrapped up in being genuine that we drift away from daily discipline lest they become route or routing. But some times faith, some times obedience, is accepting the ordinary and trusting that it is needed to get you where you are going.
Some times the plains are the hardest season. Things are fine and steady and we forget the joy of the mountain and who gave it and the pain of the valley and who brought us through. There are stretches of struggle, and there will be stretches of shear joy, but in between is the spiritual Kansas.