Get off the Mountain!
Scafell, at over 3,000 feet, is England’s highest mountain. It is situated in the Lake District. The ascent and descent are challenging, in terms of exposure to the elements, and in the time it usually takes to get up to the top and back again, which is usually around 4 -8 hours. The route is committing and the dangers are very real.
It was recently, while on a family camping holiday in Keswick in gloriously hot sunny weather, that we decided to make the ascent of Scafell. There were five of us that set out along the valley path that morning, including my daughter who was six years old. This was to be her second high mountain climb that week, she had already ascended Skiddaw.
The weather was okay, it was a mixture of cloud and sunshine – a normal mountain day – and I could not see any reason to be worried. It was also during a dry time in my spiritual life, where I was struggling to draw close to God. I had come away camping hoping to find some time with Him, yet it had been just as hectic as it was at home.
After three hours we finally reached the plateau and began our difficult clamber over the large boulders which are strewn around the summit. This was especially difficult for my daughter as most of the boulders where as large as she was, and she had to climb over them.
As we approached the summit I started to grow increasingly agitated. I couldn’t understand this, because I could perceive no immediate danger. Perhaps I was just getting into a mood for some reason. Perhaps it was the awkwardness of having to carry my daughter over the endless pile of rocks. Perhaps I was tired, or hungry. Either way, I couldn’t discern why I was becoming more and more angry.
But the anger would not go away, in fact it just grew worse the higher we climbed. I looked at the weather, it was okay; windy and cloudy but nothing to be alarmed about.
As we had reached the summit I started shouting, “We need to get down of this mountain now, we must get down.”
I was determined to get everyone to turn around. In the end I decided that it was better for us to get something to eat, perhaps we were hungry, but in any case we needed to eat.
I couldn’t understand why I was so unsettled, and neither could anyone else, they did not feel any anxiety at all.
We all felt better after eating, and started our descent, but were now cold. The wind increased and it was getting colder. The descent was slow because we still had the boulder field to negotiate. I urged them on. My concern focused on my daughter. I kept asking her if she was okay.
I put another fleece on her, underneath her waterproof. When we were about half way down the mountain the weather turned really nasty. The wind howled over the plateau bringing with it rain which soon started to soak us. It was quite a contrast from yesterday when we had been basking outside the tent in temperatures of 25 degrees. We were now fighting against driving rain and wind on an exposed mountainside.
We soon became soaked, apprehensive in the mist, and struggling to walk fast over the boulders, but with a six year old we could only go at her pace and not ours. We took turns to carry her and soon it became necessary for me to put my waterproof on her because hers was soaked through.
Taking off her wet clothes, I shielded her from the wind, and put my jacket on her. It took another two hours walking in rain and wind before we reached the safety, and warmth, of the car.
If the weather had turned nasty any earlier then it could have been an even worse scenario. As it was, we were never in any real danger. The weather on the high mountains is always changeable and I was prepared for that. It was only when I got back to the car and could meditate on the agitation that I had felt, that I could discern the reason for it.
I had questions: where had my agitation come from? Why? It was then that I sensed a quiet voice whisper to me.
“I brought you off the mountain. Your anxiety was the response to my guidance.”
Though I had not recognised His voice when I should have, I discerned it now.
Jesus is always with us, even when we have drifted away from spending time with Him. We may be drifting, neglecting prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with God. We may feel that it is all fiction, and look to the world for tangible assurances, yet our lifeline is always attached to Him, even though we may have drifted far away.
Jesus promises that nothing can snatch us out of His hand, and that He will never leave us, or forsake us. His timing on Scafell was perfect. Without Him we would have been caught on the summit in the full force of the storm, with a further two hours to get to safety.