A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Whidbey Island, which is off the coast of Washington near Seattle. I have wanted to visit this place for a couple of years, partly because I know the Olympic Mountains create a majestic vista across Puget Sound. I had visions of spending the long weekend at a friend’s house, looking at the gorgeous mountains each day and letting the view fill my heart with delight. Instead, even though it was not raining, the mountains were no where to be seen. I was disappointed and it casted a pall over the beginning of the trip. I knew they were there but, without being able to see them, I felt abandoned by them.
I love mountains and the Olympic Mountains in particular are spectacular when they are visible. And that is the rub…when they are visible. Like our Cascade Mountains here in southwest Washington, there are many times when it is too foggy, too misty, or socked in by rain to see the mountains. This summer it was even too smoky at times due to all the forest fires. When that happens, I know the mountains exist but they feel distant. When it is sunny and the “mountains are out” I feel my spirits lifting and I feel more grounded in the beauty that surrounds me.
This visit to Whidbey Island caused me to reflect on how these mountains are like God. There are times when most of us crave to sense God’s presence in a close and tangible way but feel that there is a cloud that separates us from God and God’s love. We may feel God has abandoned us or is absent from our lives at that moment. At other times, when we experience God’s touch in a more concrete way through creation, music or a compassionate touch from another person, our spirits are lifted. It is like God is playing hide and seek with us, much the same way the mountains do. But, just as the mountains are always there whether they can be seen at that moment or not, God is always present. God is in every situation, loving us and walking with us through the good times and the bad. Through we may not see or feel God in a situation, God is there. There is no place where God is not. While this knowledge may not be as comforting as a visceral experience of God’s touch, it is important to acknowledge it in the darkest moments of our journey through life.
The sun finally came out one evening during my time on Whidbey and I was able to view a glorious sunset behind the Olympic Mountains. That sunset sustained me through the next days that were cloudy and gray. The secret in life is allowing our spirits to do the same. To take those moments when God’s presence is so palpable that we can’t escape it and ground them in the memories of our hearts. That way when our days are the darkest we can know that God’ love is with us even if our vision of it is clouded over with the mists and pains of life.