Peace That Passes All Understanding
My Mountaintop Moment
When I was growing up in a Baptist church in Northern Virginia, I often heard about people in the Bible who had mountaintop moments with God and were changed forever. I longed for that. Of course, I longed for the Cecil B. DeMille version of that moment, full of rumble and basso profundo voices given to mighty orchestration. Years later, my moment took me entirely by surprise.
Barbara Bradley Haggerty wrote of many people's moments with God in her book Fingerprints of God. People touched by God have found themselves changed by the experience. I am happy to report that has been my experience as well.
My moment came in the mountains themselves, but it was a quiet experience, without orchestration or rumbling voices of thunder. Here's what happened.
I was an adult guide for our church youth group some years ago to the Baptist Youth gathering at the YMCA of the Rockies. What a glorious place for a retreat! Much to my surprise, I was asked to lead a class in the use of Christian drama in church. I gathered material from the library that was available to me and decided to include a long-winded joke, acted out by equally surprised members of the audience just to add a note of levity that I have felt is all too often forgotten in some Christian proceedings.
I had a good group participating, including both teens and adults. We introduced ourselves, went over some basics of stagecraft and then started learning the various one act plays we would present toward the end of the week on Talent Night. All went well, everyone worked very hard, and all were coming to see the usefulness of drama in presenting at times complex issues in a memorable and different way.
Then the word came Wednesday morning that another group would be performing along with the student acts and our simple plays. A group of professional actors and actresses would be taking the stage as well. At first I was shocked and then, as I thought about how badly this would upstage my class and scuttle the enthusiasm they had developed from Christian drama I went from shocked to furious. By late afternoon, when I was crossing the large, grassy commons looking for the event director to give him a piece of my mind, I was boiling. No one was walking with me at that moment and I was glad of it. I was not good company.
Suddenly I felt someone had come up quickly behind me. This individual was just behind me and off to the right a bit. I stopped and turned in that direction to find nothing but empty grass, the cabins in the distance and the beautiful Rocky Mountains behind them. Confused but before I could shake off the impression, a sense of peace swept through me that I had never felt before in my life. It is written in Philippians 4:4-7: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
I was stopped dead in my tracks. That peace swept through me, a touch of God's peace, an intimation of the peace of those who have gone before us and now rejoice in the presence of God, a little taste of the divine and the eternal. I was filled with wonder. My anger evaporated. As I turned around again, I no longer needed to seek out the director. I was given to understand all would be well. And it was. We performed in a coffee house setting the following night while the thespians took to the main stage. The results of my students' efforts were delightful and all left with a sense they had gained a valuable tool.
For me, I'd had my mountaintop moment and I am not the same. While I cannot describe it well, and frankly I'm not sure it can be described in human terms, that sense of peace, of being touched by God, has changed me forever. Today, I walk a closer walk with God. I am seeking out a life of ministry now, which had not been a part of my own plans for the future. Further, when I attend the funeral of a family member or friend, my grief in their passing is now tempered. I remember that wonderful peace of God that touched me on the mountaintop. I am comforted to know my friend or loved one now resides in the full beauty of that peace and the joy it brings.
My time runs short. I wish all of you your own mountaintop moments with God. I hope more of us who believe will speak up concerning the love, joy, and peace that we have come to know walking with God. God bless you all and may each of you find peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding and that will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Henri Nouwen Spiritual Writing
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