The Hunky Hubby and Sweet Boy#1 just got back from their backpacking trip. It was a four day, three night hike up into several wilderness lakes. Copper, big heart, little heart. These are some of the names I recall from my little boy’s lecture as he held the map and explained the route that they took. My guys came back hobbling and exhausted, brown with dirt, and glowing with the joy of their adventure. Sweet boy #1 was one of the fastest hikers, speeding ahead of his Daddy much of the time. Although carrying his over-sized backpack really hurt his shoulders and on some occasions others lugged it around for him. They showed me their pictures, of alpine lakes and windswept precipices. Looking at that distinct high mountain foliage in their pictures, recalled for me that fresh bitter scent of wilderness air and the feel of the wind trying to blast you from the path. And I realized something important.
If you have never spent time in the wilderness, not just the woods, but the wilderness there are some things that you will never understand about God. Now I live in the woods. Not the same. But when you put all of the supplies to survive on your back and hike up into that wildly rugged territory that does not make any allowances for you, a land that just is and there is nothing you can do to tame or turn it to your ends. You realize something about God. Why are we drawn to the wilderness? Because we have no business being there. It is not safe.
The Hunky Hubby and Sweet Boy#1 stood at the lip of a 1,000 foot drop down into a mountain lake. Just one little slip, a tiny accidental nudge the wrong way and their fragile human bodies would have be destroyed. Shinobi and Splinter (two of the counselors who went along) took a quick day hike up an extremely steep ridge. About half way up they realized that going down the way they had come was impossible. They would pick up too much speed sliding and be killed. So they were really hoping that there was a milder way down at the top. There was, but even then they were going dangerously fast, stopping themselves by crashing into small rocks and bushes as they slid down. But what if there hadn’t been a better way?
They could have died. Not because the mountain was evil, or unloving, or lacking understanding. But because the mountain was great, mighty, awesome, unreachable. Those who want to be safe and sound have no business climbing up into the untouchable heights. The frightful power of the wilderness is why we trek into it. And yet many people do not understand why we are to fear God. Those who have stood on those alpine heights, seen the fragility of their lives and felt the easy power of the wilderness. Fearing God comes easy. We have no business stomping up to the Almighty and making demands. He just is. He is terrible. He is fierce. Mighty. Wondrous. Beautiful. Deadly. Frightful.
Now of course the crazy thing about God is that all of His creation tells us something of Him, and so there is also something you will never understand about God if you have never seen a butterfly, or a duckling, or a grizzly bear. But fearing God…if you have stood there on the precipice with that rushing mountain wind pressing you toward the edge, you just understand. God is frightful.
But that does not make Him any less Good. And in the wilderness you can see that as well.