That was one Thanksgiving weekend I will never forget. The sudden death of my father, the day after my daughters wedding, sent me into what I call a protective state of shock. I thought that it was the “peace beyond understanding” that we read about in scripture. Maybe it was; maybe the two were mixed together to form some Divine Recipe, with my heart being the ingredients. The answer to that question will only be found in eternity, at least in my limited comprehension. It is these events that eventually led me to find myself up on the hill on that beautiful April afternoon.
We have probably all felt what we call mountaintop experiences. These are some of the emotional highs that season our lives. A consensus of friends helped me to determine, at least to our perception, that in the spiritual sense; a mountaintop experience is best described as a confirmation of God’s leading in our lives. To those of us who strive diligently to operate within the will of our Creator and Savior this is a good thing. This narrative is my attempt to describe my recent adventures in the hopes that it may some day, help someone, in some way. I will preface my story with an observation. Hindsight being what it is, I can say I now realize that this entire experience began and continued with the Lord drawing me, to meet Him, “Up on the Hill.”
Our long planned three-day weekend visiting dear friends in upstate Pennsylvania had finally arrived. The hectic week of preparing production schedules and work-a-day stress is behind us now. Three days of fun, fellowship and theological discussion is what we craved and were about to encounter. A Saturday night dinner concert featuring a popular Christian pianist set an atmosphere in my heart that would help me to hear the “still small voice” of the Spirit of God living within me. Sunday morning Worship Service only amplified whatever it was that was drawing me.
The service, while praiseworthy, was a typical occurrence in a good Bible teaching church. Tears began to flow as we sang some of the old hymns. Not your typical, corner of the eye tears, but cheek streaming, handkerchief requiring tears. I don’t know why, it just happened. Later during lunch while discussing our plans for the day I said that one thing I needed to do was walk up the hill by myself. Don’t ask me why, I don’t have an answer for that either. Something was drawing me up there even though I felt no need to be alone.
The hill, is a 35-degree incline behind Rick and Lorraine’s house. It sounded like a great idea over lunch but, I knew and hoped that I would probably find other less strenuous things to fill my day. The afternoon found the four of us enjoying the sunshine, porch swing, and each other’s company. I had promised to get some measurements for an old out-building located at the foot of the hill. I planned to remodel it when I returned in July for my annual Christian Writers’ Conference. As I excused myself and stated my intentions someone asked, “will you be taking your walk while you’re back there”? “ I don’t know,” was my response.
I headed to the back of the property; got the measurements I needed and proceeded up. In several other outbuildings I located most of the materials I would need for my July project. Crossing a little path I entered the seldom-used workshop thinking I would set up my tools here rather than the little building near the house that I normally use. I poked my head in the door and said to myself, this will work. Without any forethought or reason, I picked up an old walking stick I saw leaning against a wall and headed up the hill.
I thought that this climb was something I just wanted to do, but would later realize that I was being summoned up there. The first hundred yards required five rest stops. When my heart stopped pounding and my breathing returned to normal, I would proceed to the next rest stop. The trail, accessible by four wheel drive, was lined and divided by briars of varying sizes further slowing my progress. I could not imagine making this trek any later in the season when everything would be in full bloom. At least once every five minutes I was ready to head back down. I had no typical male obsession or drive to make this climb, but yet something kept me heading forward.
Eventually I reached the top, but felt no sense of accomplishment what so ever. Actually the calmness felt rather uncomfortable. Continuing on I came across a path that belongs to a Bible Conference located on the opposite side of the hill. Without a second thought I turned left and continued down the path. Periodically a Bible verse plaque hanging on a tree caught my eye. I enjoyed reading them, but continued feeling no emotion. I knew the gravesite of R.A Torrey, an old time evangelist and founder of the Bible Conference, was up here somewhere so I decided to look for it.
I finally located the headstone and spent a few moments looking at it. I still had no idea why I was there. I sat down on the warm grass and leaned against a fence. Was I supposed to pray? Was I supposed to think? I felt no excitement, I felt nothing. I did not even think about a short nap in the sun, something I usually don’t ponder much before giving in to. Across the way I spotted a park bench, in the middle of nowhere. It looked more comfortable than my current position so I headed toward it. Taking off my jacket and rolling it up to use as a pillow I stretched out on the bench.
Looking heavenward I still sensed no reason for my being there. High in the trees with a backdrop of scattered clouds I saw a solitary hummingbird. It landed on a branch about twenty feet up, remained there for about ten seconds, then flew off. If you’re expecting some profound revelation at this point I’m sorry to disappoint you. Being an admirer of hummingbirds I simply thought; that sight was worth the trip.
As long as I’m in this position, at this altitude, I might as well pray, I reckoned. “Dear Heavenly Father” I began, “I love you.” “I need the peace that only you can give.” Those fifteen little words released an uncontrollable flood of tears. Tears that I had no desire to control, no shame to shed. As I write these words exactly one week later I still need to wipe away the tears blocking my view of this computer screen. Like an open floodgate the words of my prayer suddenly poured forth.
“Lord, I miss my dad so much” I cried. Even the writer within me didn’t waste any time searching for eloquent words to describe my pain. “I need your peace Father. Please, please hear my prayer. Lord, please be to me the Father of the fatherless that your word says that you are. I need a father to love me, and to guide me, even if I don’t always listen. I hurt Father. I’ve never hurt like this. I don’t know how to hurt this bad.” Many other petitions came from within that I was neither aware of nor can I clearly recall now. After a time I dried my eyes, put on my jacket, picked up my walking stick, and headed back to the house.
You keep waiting for an exciting summary of this spiritual encounter but, once again I apologize, there is none. I headed back with the same lack of enthusiasm that I had at the start of this trip. The Bible verses hung in the trees along the path were still a comfort to read. The flowers, trees and rock formations took on no additional glow, such as one would expect following such an experience. I felt no different except maybe a little more tired as I anticipated my return trip down the hill. That, beloved, is the great news that I want to share with you. For once in my life I was not limiting God’s leading in my life to how I felt.
I believe, based on His Word, that He drew me to him, up on the hill. He knew my pain before I could put it into words. I believe, based on His Word, that He heard my prayers and that He will answer my prayers. I believe, based on His Word that I had just received a confirmation of God’s leading in my life. While the same old tired aching Dave plodded down that hill I knew that I had just gone through a mountaintop experience that I pray I will never forget. I thank God for drawing me and meeting me "Up on the Hill."
Beautifully written! I love your honesty. I'm glad you posted this here. I know that it will be such a source of encouragement to many. Sometimes we just need to climb up in our "Daddy's" lap and cry. In that, we find peace, healing and the strength to carry on.