I love the National Park Service. I really do. In fact, I’m thinking of becoming a park ranger when I grow up. Not only do I love the uniform, but also I can’t think of any occupation that would be more fun. But I have a few questions I’d like to ask someone in authority.
In some parks, there are guardrails on walkways and roads to keep you from falling off a log. In Yellowstone at the time of our visit, one walked on boardwalks across hot boiling water and along precipices of undetermined depth with not a handrail in sight. Why is this? The signs simply said something like, “Please don’t jump off these walkways or you could die.”
At the lower falls of the Yellowstone, it seemed we stood on just a few rocks thrown together on the side of the canyon walls. I peered over a small ledge and gasped. It had to be a drop of a least 50,000 feet. But, I forgot my fear as I gazed at the thundering falls-- awesome, powerful, and astoundingly beautiful. An incredible work of God and a high place, indeed.
“Mommy, you’re hurting my hand,” Bethany said. I loosened my grip a bit to give her relief, but continued to hold it. My seven year old had already proved herself untrustworthy by jumping off the walkway at Mammoth Hot springs to inspect a little hole in the ground. Thankfully, her landing spot was solid earth and not molten lava.
On our exodus toward the North Gate of Yellowstone, meadows and wildlife surrounded us, and I began to feel as if I knew what to expect, when we went through a pass in the mountains and literally glided on to nothing. I didn’t know we’d been in a hanging valley and the road at this point was supported at times not by good solid earth, but simply suspended over the canyon by I don’t know what. When the road did lie on terra firma, I felt the wheels of our converted van barely made traction along the top of the sheer cliffs. I’d look out the window at the drop and feel my stomach leave me. I understood then, why my Dad’s wife had gone to the back of the van to lie down when they made this trip.
But how often does one actually get to ride through the air on four wheels? Another high place.
As far as high places go, nothing could prepare us for the spiritual heights to which God was about to take us. We were headed to a family camp high in the Montana mountains.
It was here, not far from the timberline, that God confirmed in my heart the dream of writing a book.
“Beverly,” I heard the worship leader say one evening as I was leaving a meeting. He approached me, “I feel like God is saying that you’re afraid to go after what God is telling you. I believe he’s encouraging you to ‘Do it afraid.’ And that he will confirm whatever this is to you.
That night in a dream, I saw a book, and the title was from Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it shall be given you."
"Do it afraid,” I’ve repeated often through the years as I’ve come up against the old relentless enemy of self-doubt, and when fear reared its ugly head.
Just like Peter wanted to put up shelters on the mount of transfiguration, I wanted to stay on this mountain. I’d learned in the high places, that if we want to get to the beauty, we have to face our fear. So, when we left the camp on Friday, we were making a descent in more than one way. Oswald Chambers says,
“We have all had times on the mount, when we have seen things from God’s standpoint and have wanted to stay there; but God will never allow us to stay there. The test of our spiritual life is the power to descend; if we have power to rise only, something is wrong. It is a great thing to be on the mount with God, but a man only gets there in order that afterwards he may get down among the devil-possessed and lift them up. We are not built for the mountains and the dawns and aesthetic affinities; those are for moments of inspiration. That is all. We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in, and that is where we have to prove our mettle”(My Utmost for His Highest).
In the weeks after our return home in that summer of 2001, it would definitely feel like a valley. The situation with my mother would spiral downward. We’d begin a yearlong fight against cancer for a dear friend, face a difficult ministry situation, and of course wrestle with the fallout from the event we’ve come to call 911.
But I remembered in my pain, and sadness, and grief that God had called my name one Wednesday night on a Montana mountain. I remembered that I’d seen the rare beauty of the wild earth God had created. I remembered and I prayed that I’d be able to give away the hope God had planted in my heart in the high places.