I picked a short hike to start off the week. My public reason was so I could return in time to take Cyndi to her class that afternoon, but it actually had more to do with making a gentle entry to the mountains. I found the trail in my copy of The Best Durango Hikes; it climbed and circled Animas Mountain, which overlooks the city of Durango and the Animas Valley. The guidebook said the trail was easy, and it was, even though it climbed about 1,400’.
I had my iPod with me, so I cued up a Rich Mullins playlist and put it on random play, to let God pick the songs I needed. Right away I heard:
My deliverer is coming, my deliverer is standing by
Me too, Rich; the greatest, longest, and deepest loves of my life – Jesus and Cyndi –delivered me, pursued me, and continue to chase after me today.
I was fortunate that Jesus pursued me from the very beginning of my life. Literally from Day #1. I never had to find him on my own. Not only did he find me right away, he used my parents and my grandparents to leave a trail easy to follow.
When I was a teenager, at the point in life when many of my friends resist their parent’s way of life, Jesus delivered me through music. And then, during my college years, when I was hungry for a new grown-up life, wondering who I would be and what would I believe going forward, Jesus came after me with structure and daily practices. He delivered me, settled me down, gave me peace and hope, and forged a personal faith born from my family heritage but centered in my own life.
Since then, Jesus has continually delivered me, often through unexpected emotional encounters. He pursued me through running and marathon training, writing, teaching, hiking and backpacking, cycling, and now, once again, through music. Decade by decade he gently led me through the phases of life, speaking to me in the ways I needed most.
Where could I go, where could I run
Even if I found the strength to fly
And if I rose on the wings of the dawn
And crashed through the corner of the sky
My other greatest love, Cyndi, pursued me long before I was smart enough to pursue her back. We first met in August 1973; it was three years later, at a jazz concert in Denton, TX, when I noticed her for real and fell suddenly for her. She delivered me from my own plans and schemes by moving in close first.
Later, after she thought my interest had waned (it hadn’t, but I was too clueless to talk about it), and I thought I’d lost her forever because she was with someone else, she came straight back and rescued me again. As soon as she had a clear path she showed up at my doorstep and delivered me from my own sad self.
Without those two deliverers, who would I be? Probably be a Buddhist monk, or a lonely pathetic grouchy old man living in a cave.
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days
Rich Mullins once wrote, “The biggest problems with life is that it’s just daily. There are no shortcuts.”
Kathleen Norris said something similar about spirituality in her book, Dakota. She wrote, “Enlightenment can’t be found in a weekend workshop. There is not such a thing as becoming an instantly spiritualized person.” She continued, “Americans seek the quick fix for spiritual as well as physical growth. The fact that conversion is a lifelong process is the last thing we want to hear.”
Maybe that’s one reason why I like hiking on mountain trials. It’s hard and long, there are no shortcuts or quick fixes, but it’s fun. It’s worth the hard work.
There’s more that rises in the morning than the sun
And more that shines in the night than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here that keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger than this room
Like I knew it would, hiking in the San Juan Mountains while listening to Rich Mullins made me want to get in my car and drive to the horizon. I wanted to feel the sky the way he did. His songs make me feel I've underestimated God’s presence in the southwest desert where I've spent my entire adult life. His songs make me look at the sky and wonder about the love of God.
And there's a loyalty that's deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things
The magnificent view of the Animas Valley from the mountain ridge reminded me - there is always more, bigger and deeper. Like Rich, I want to be a curtain-puller, an inspirer, a heart-giver. I want to be someone who lives the bigger picture of God.
And nowadays I no longer have any interest in things that don’t get bigger the longer I look. I’m tired of tiny petty ideas. I want to be involved in deeper, bigger things, stories, and movements. I’m at home in our ever-expanding universe; I want bigger.
And may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself. (Eph 3:17-19,)
How about you? How have you been delivered?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32