Several years ago our family went on a camping trip in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. We were novices at the whole outdoor adventure thing, so it was a bit overwhelming trying to decide which of the plethora of hikes to do near the campground where we were staying. I finally settled on a hike that took us to the summit of minor mountain that featured a firetower and promised rewarding views all around. The guidebook’s promise didn’t have a caveat about lousy weather, though. Of course, we didn’t know that. So off we trudged on a bit of a dreary day. We encountered an occasional sprinkle along the way—just enough to make the exposed granite treacherously slick. But it was worth the risk because of the promised view that lay ahead. By the time we reached the summit, increasing and lowering clouds dashed our hopes that the sun would break through, dry out our damp boots, and fulfill our two-hour anticipation. But here we were at the top, enshrouded in a fog of clouds swirling about. The guidebook was right. There was a firetower, and it was open to all who wished to climb its 5 or 6 flights of stairs that would take you above the trees. But alas, what’s the point if you can see no farther than the trees 50 feet out? No one in our family of four bothered. Instead, we rested a few, ate some trail mix, chugged some water, and not a little disappointed, headed back down the trail.
What is it about reaching a mountain summit and looking out where you can see for miles that makes it so thrilling and rewarding? I’ve done this a number of times, and rarely if ever felt it wasn’t worth the climb. A few even required mounting the stairs of a firetower once you got the summit, and we did so gladly, knowing the view would be spectacular. Why do we do this? “Because it’s there!” is the typical answer, right? But there’s got to be more to it than that.
As I pondered the question, I remembered Moses’s vista experience just before he died. He desperately wanted to enter the Promised Land—the longed-for destination, the glorious land of milk and honey and abundance and rest. But alas, he’d made a terrible choice during the wandering years that resulted in his being prohibited from entry. He asked the Lord to change His mind and let him go in, but no, the Lord’s decision was final. However, what the Lord did for His servant was take him to the summit of Mt. Pisgah, opening before him a vista of the land he longed for, but could only see from a distance. I can imagine the melancholy thrill in Moses’s heart—given a vision, but still out of reach.
Then I thought of Ecclesiastes 3:11, “…[God] has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” But we long to see it, don’t we? Don’t we want to be able to see what in the world God has been doing throughout the confusing timeline of human history? Don’t we want to see what God has done in the establishment of the “land that is fairer than day”? After all, it’s only “by faith we can see it afar,” and what we can see isn’t all that clear, is it? So we long to see. I can’t help but think our summiting a mountain that gives us a panoramic view, a beautiful vista of what lies far beyond us, resonates with that longing for eternity in the human breast.
I’m then led to rejoice in the Savior, Jesus, who promised, “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also….I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [John 14:2-3]. I rejoice in Him because He promises to be the way leading to the land fairer than day that my heart yearns for every time I look out from some mountain summit. Let’s go there together!