Prophetic Dilemmas – dilemmas of decision and action based on faith, wisdom and relationship with God through His Holy Spirit, in which we discover something new of our own character, gifting or calling, or a new aspect or attribute of God Himself.
I have been struggling through yet another spiritual dilemma. This one is very common, actually. It literally happens to everyone. I call it being in the shadow of the mountain.
I have heard many people refer to our lives as being a series of mountaintop and valley experiences; that we are always either headed towards or just climbing down from the mountain. And of course, there are the inevitable valleys and desert experiences that come between the peaks of our lives. And that is really the main point of our time on the heights, preparation for the next valley. I’ll say it again, the reason for your awesome times of insight and spiritual vision are to prepare you for a long and effective walk with others along the lowland paths of life.
Pinnacle experiences are easy to handle, they’re just a gift. Anybody can open their hands and receive a gift. Low points and valleys are commonly discussed and volumes of great work have been written for those in these places. But being in the shadow of the mountain is the nether-place between them. It is the time just after or just before these. It is in fact a place in God in it’s own right. It is the moment of darkness, faith and trust just before you come up to the light of God’s presence. Or, the moment you realize that it is time to move on from revelation to realization, when you decide to go down into the realities of your actual life to build the very thing God showed you on the summit of possibilities.
In the shadow of the mountain things are not clear. This is the moment of testing. Do you believe what you heard up there on that mountain? Was that incredible experience real, or do you just need lithium and psychotherapy? It is the time between Moses talking with God at the burning bush and the moment his brother meets him at the bottom of the mountain and confirms that he also has heard from God. It is the time Paul waited without vision in a room for a simple believer named Ananias to come and open his eyes and confirm the call he heard on the road to Damascus.
Of all of the people in scripture who had a time with God on the heights, what followed was usually something like confusion, disorientation, criticism, and even warfare or being chased into the caves to hide. What is required to make it through the time in the shadow of the mountain? Humility.
Num. 12:3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.)
Who wrote that? Moses. Moses wrote that he was the most humble man on the face of the earth. Exactly. You see, Moses could write that he was humble, not because he saw God face to face, but because God saw him face to face. Not to mention that he had gone through a wilderness preparation of forty years walking with God everyday feeding and leading sheep.
Or how about David? David gets the award for being in the shadow of the mountain for the longest time in the Bible. (Well, then again, maybe it’s a tie between him and Joseph, Jacob’s son.) So put your imagination hat on and picture this with me. The prophet Samuel, known to cause fear, trembling, and reverent awe and respect for God wherever he went, shows up at your house and pronounces you as Israel’s next king. It’s like you won the lottery, with the Powerball option! But there’s only one problem: eventually, the guy who’s the current king, King Saul, will hear about this and maybe not be so happy.
You probably know the story from Sunday school and Davey and Goliath clay-mation cartoons. (Goliath:“I don’t know, Davey…Dad said not to play matches. Davey: Aw, what the heck! No one’ll ever know! [That Davey was a handful!]) David kills a bad-ass giant killer-dude, and becomes a rock star with top ten hits, when it occurs to Saul, the not-so-happy-about-David-being-king guy, that now would be a good time for David to be dead. David, being the sensible sort of guy that he was, ran like a man on a mission. He ran into a guy named Achish,(gesundheit!), a thug king, and let’s just say things didn’t go well.
[Warning: extensive Bible passage ahead]
1Sam. 21:10-15 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath.
But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: “‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?” David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”
My friend Brian Fenimore calls these kind of moments when you have to pretend to be insane to get out of dicey situations “eating a dirt sandwich.” And for the next several years, David had a steady diet of dirt sandwiches. Lowland dirt, highland dirt, country dirt, city dirt, he had a regular round diet of dirt sandwiches. Saul chased David all over the countryside for years. But gradually, through the situation of being constantly in the shadow of the mountain, and passing each test as it came by, David won the people’s trust and became their King. But it was the humility he learned in the shadow of the mountain that allowed him to become the King he was called to be.
Are you in the shadow of the mountain? If you are, keep moving. And yes, you did hear from God. Don’t try to re-live the moments on the mountain, but rather live your life in the light of what you learned there. And when you meet someone else who is in the shadow of the mountain, tell her this: God believes in you and so do I!