Of dips and dales

Rousing successes and mountain-top victories are not the stuff of life. They do not produce life nor can they define it.

Elijah discovered this, post-Carmel, 1 Kings 18-19. Wise men warn against letting the dips and valleys of experience determine personal value and satisfaction; let them alert the foolish that neither can the peaks and heights of accomplishment.

Many seek to increase time spent on the slopes of success. They strive for the vibrant hills of a moving heart. But the tops can be, in their own way, as draining as the dale. For beyond the pinnacle lies the downward incline to the next dip.

Of course, the argument can be made that for every dip there is a corresponding rise. Look at it however you want, if life and satisfaction are defined by the peaks and positive emotions, many of the rivers, fields, streams, dells, and lows of human existence must be discounted as worthless.

In Genesis 22, Abraham had a mountain-top experience. In the whole narrative, no emotion is recorded, and Moses must have done this by design. Until the angel grabbed the knife from the patriarch’s hand (metaphorically speaking), for most mortals this moment would have to be described as the lowest point in life.

But Abraham obeyed, not from desperation, but from faith. And from that deep mountain-top experience, from that extreme test of love, came blessing for himself and the world.

The point is this: Outward success and inner positive feelings are of short duration in this life, hold no real key to life’s meaning, and contribute little to spiritual growth and righteousness. They may indeed detract from them or, at least, deflect us from them.

In the quiet speaking of God to our ears; in the early hours when others sleep or in the darkest of night when the eyes have little function to perform; in tears and sighs and shallow breathing of fervent prayer—in these moments the Lord appears and makes himself present. His purpose is revealed; his plan, made clear.

And in those moments, God gives us all we have been frantically seeking in the bright, scalding sun and the rarefied air of the highest heights—himself.

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