|Sitting at the edge of the high alpine lake at our campsite, our faces aglow with the golden hue of the setting sun, my wife and I spend days gazing silently upon the snow-covered backs of lumbering Rocky Mountains. This annual pilgrimage into creation has been a staple for us. It anchors us. Every year we make this journey I either learn something new or am reminded of something deep about God. This year after a series of challenging life events that arrived at our doorstep, God took the opportunity to speak to me in the mountains through a strong, driving wind that daily cascaded down the valley to the west of us, skated across the lake’s surface and filled my ears with two questions:
The questions brought to mind the thoughts of the mystic and naturalist John Muir. He wrote, “Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.” To be in creation is to be in God.
Jacob too found himself dreaming in God under the stars. Whereas I had the comfort of a soft sleeping pad and downy pillow during my foray, he made his bed upon unforgiving earth and a stoney pillow! As he rested and listened in that corner of creation that he would soon rename “the house of God”, Jacob heard the Divine voice tell him, “Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go…I will never leave you.” (GN 28:15)
In today’s Gospel reading, the official and the hemorrhaging woman answered those two questions with a confident “Yes!” through their actions. The official, having presumably just watched his daughter die, channels his grief and taps into the well of trust by seeking out the Healer. “Come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” (MT 9:18) In a similar, but unique way, the suffering woman whose affliction surely kept her distant from the community, found her way back to wholeness through her trust in Jesus and his power to heal, “If only I can touch his cloak.” (MT 9:21) Perhaps they both have something to teach me about how I engage my own suffering of the mind, body and spirit in relation to Jesus.
Even Jesus was not immune from similar questions. As he approaches the bedside of the deceased daughter, the crowds ridicule him for what must have looked to be lunacy in his attempt to raise her. He pays those jeering voices no mind, sends them out and lifts the girl up from her slumber back into the waking world. He knows his God is near and trusts in that healing power he possesses. Am I able to trust God in a similar way when dissenting voices within and around me shout their “bad advice” as Mary Oliver would say?
As I walk the dog or pick up the newspaper off the driveway in the morning; as I rush between meetings or commute along tree-lined streets; as I watch the sun set out my kitchen window or water my garden…might I lift my eyes to the horizon and join the Psalmist in whispering back to the wind, “In you, my God, I place my trust.” (PS 91:2)