Article by Maria Gladwin
"I look up to the mountains, does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!" Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT)
A slash of sun stretches along the foot of the mountains, the rest still hidden in a thick mist. From our "nest" a few dwellings stand out in this golden light, others still sombre under the clouds. Like eagles, perched on high, we look over this landscape each day, witnessing changes of weather, seasons, even raging fires. We've seen so many moods shift over these hills, glowing in the last rays at dusk, foreboding before a storm, ghostly under a rising moon. Ever shifting, changing - solid but not still. When I lift my eyes up to the hills, it is no longer for comfort, but they do serve as a reminder that even as mountains may crumble and oceans dry up, the God that spoke these things into life is from everlasting to everlasting.
When I re-read the first lines of this well-loved Psalm, I wondered to myself: "Why do people think of mountains as places of refuge? We "escaped" to the mountains, thinking that we would find peace in a place where we could freely pursue our dreams. Truth is, even if the hills offer a potential refuge, they may also hide a potential menace... One of the first things that struck me about Hogsback, is how you can drive down or up every single path and winding lane in this village and never encounter a single soul. Homes are hidden away, and their inhabitants prefer it that way. Many of these hill-dwellers were drawn to a place such as this to get away from the constant pressures or scorn of society, or simply to live simply.
Where there is a need to hide - there is often insecurity, secret lives, hurt or depression. We are surprised to find that it is not only in the movies that these high places provide a wonderful hiding place for “out-laws”. It also draws those who worship nature, and on a less obvious level becomes a place where Satan can "hide" his workers. These, clash harshly with the Spirit of Truth that lives in us when we surrender our lives to Christ. (Interestingly enough Psalm 121 forms part of "the songs of ascents", a collection of hymns that the pilgrims used going up to Jerusalem for the annual feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacle). The psalmist answers his own question with the acknowledgement that his help is from the Maker of heaven and earth alone. Maybe he needed protection from a possible menace hidden in the hills. We do not know. What we do know is that looking for refuge in the mountains or anywhere else but with our Lord is futile.
If I look back over the last few years, it is with awe. The memories of a very dark time are still fresh, but at the same time distant and unreal. Our escape also proved futile. We faced so many personal hurts and disappointments in this perceived place of “refuge”, that my natural instinct was to reverse the escape and run back. I feared for the future of our family, the little one growing under my heart, and his brother, who often witnessed his confused parents' turmoil. But God promised that he had plans to prosper us and not to harm us (Jer 29:11) and I held onto that with all my strength. And when I had no strength left, He held on for both of us. There was a noxious cloud over our home, and until I realised that the battle had to be fought on a spiritual level, I felt utterly lost. I had to reaffirm again and again that there is no condemnation for those whom are in Christ, that He has overcome the world, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
The battle seemed endless, but in retrospect we can see that it was mercifully short but fierce. A few people who knew of our situation prayed with all their hearts and offered unending support and insight. We have lived a year of incredible healing, miraculous forgiveness and a solid re-anchoring of our family. In other ways the challenges have increased and the battle has intensified. But the challenges we now face together in Christ and the battle we partake in willingly - with our armour in place (see blogpost on War and Peace).
Some people think that the things I write about border on the extreme, veering toward the edge of obsession with faith. And I agree with both. Only loving Christ to the extreme, being fully focused on and totally surrendered to Him, answers our true calling, “full-fills” our true need. Not lifting our eyes up to false gods, hiding in financial security, or trusting in worldly systems and comforts. I do not ever write from a place of judgement, but from painful experience and a deep longing that no one else should need to live a life trapped in similar deceit. God promises us that His "burden" is light, and like all the other promises He gives us, it is the truth. It does not mean that it will be easy going. On the contrary, we are told that in the world we will have trouble, but to take heart, for Christ has overcome the world. Simply put - hang in there, I am your strength.
I like to think of my life as one of those old mechanical scales: when I have placed all the "weights" on the side marked "eternity with Christ", God balances the other side with ALL that we need to survive and flourish in this crazy, upside-down world. In this way we are able to stay in balance - in all walks of life.
I have grown to love this beautiful wild corner of the world and its eclectic mix of inhabitants, but my hiding place is in the Rock of all ages, under the shadow of His wings. Outside, the mists have lifted and the golden hour of dusk arrives. Shadows stretch ever longer and swirls of smoke rise straight up in the chill air. Mothers gather their chicks and the men fetch more firewood for the cold night.
Above all this, the Lord watches over our coming and going, both now and forevermore.
Author: Maria Gladwin
Hogsback, Eastern Cape