Mountaintop experiences. Those moments where God is undeniably present. When he shows up in power and glory. We are left riding high on a spiritual wave, convinced that God is at work in wonderful ways. What have your mountaintop experiences been?
There are a few that jump to my mind. On one occasion, the Holy Spirit was poured out on some unsuspecting Bible college students at a dormitory meeting. We didn’t see it coming. Suddenly, his presence filled the room. Many of us were moved to tears as we proceeded from heart-to-heart conversations to passionate pleas of prayer and back again. Significant healing happened among us that night. It was a mountaintop experience.
On another occasion, I responded to a preacher’s call for repentance. The weight of conviction was upon me, and I stepped forward to let God know that I meant business. I wanted to be faithful. I knew he had spoken. The course of my life was altered that night, and I’ve not been quite the same ever since.
We’re in good company with our mountaintop experiences. Moses spoke with God face-to-face on Mount Sinai. His face glowed with radiance following these experiences. The Apostle Peter, too. He met with Jesus, Moses and Elijah on a summit. While Jesus shone brightly, God spoke audible words of affirmation. I imagine Peter was profoundly impacted by this occasion.
However, as we all know, mountaintop experiences do not last forever. Life is not sustained on a peak. Rather, we spend much of our time working in the valley or even wandering through the desert. Our biblical inspirations knew this as well as you and I do. Moses led a grumbling, dissatisfied people for many years, struggling to trust and restrained from his ultimate goal. Peter’s journey following the Mount of Transfiguration wasn’t exactly “happily ever after” either.
So what do we do with these mountaintop experiences? How might our delight and worship at the pinnacle inform our plodding on the plains?
One great danger is that the sweet memories of God’s power and presence lead us to dissatisfaction and even bitterness at all other points. We anxiously strain ahead, demanding that God meet us gloriously once again. We can become consistently filled with disappointment because life is not what it had been at that high point.
An alternative danger is that we guard ourselves. It happened once, but “that was then.” We’re not sure how to get back there, so we settle in, put our heads down and faithfully serve the Lord. We don’t want to be disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Nor do we want to get “carried away.” We live as if this is all there is on our side of heaven. When we do this, might we be hardening ourselves to God’s surprising work?
Mountaintop experiences are a precious gift from God. May we receive them and yearn for them as such. May we raise them as “ebenezers,” as monuments to God’s power and presence, so that we may be spurred on through the dry, painful or mundane times. They inspire us to believe there is more than what we see right now. And may we also pray to God for our next mountaintop experience. Let us ask God if maybe, once again in his good time, heaven might undeniably touch earth, right here in front of us.
Ryan Jantzi pastors Kingsfield-Zurich Mennonite Church, Ont., where he’s fascinated with exploring the interplay between traditional church and new expressions of mission.