Our travels this summer included one day in New Hampshire’s White Mountains – and when the Desilets only have one day in a place, you can bet we’re gonna make it count!
After a scenic drive on the Kancamagus Highway and lunch on the banks of the Swift River, we headed out on the “Boulder Loop Trail”. Tim had done his research and if you know our family, you know adventure doesn’t get much better than a forest full of giant climb-able rocks!
We made quick work of the first several boulders on the trail, but soon arrived at one that “boulder” couldn’t justly describe – it was more like a rock mountain plunged into the middle of the trail. Although the trail turned to the right, we couldn’t resist (who needs the trail anyway?) and up we went.
And up was right! This was a steep climb and the challenge was thrilling – but there were moments when we (okay, I) second-guessed our decision to allow our children (okay, myself) to go this route.
My worries were quickly forgotten when we stepped out onto a breathtaking open rock face overlooking the mountains and valley below. In just a few minutes of hiking, we had gained some serious elevation!
But as we stood there enjoying the view, a rumble of thunder turned our peace into panic. We knew storms were possible that day, but we didn’t know when, and standing there, exposed, on the open rock face of a mountain didn’t seem a like place we wanted to be!
We began looking for a way down, but it seemed we were surrounded by cliffs on every side. Sure, we could have gone back down the way we came, but it was steep, and besides, who does that? Thankfully, we did find a way down and were very grateful when we got back to the safety of our car!
I bet it was thrilling to be a disciple of Jesus. Twelve ordinary guys who, up to that point, had lived ordinary lives now traveled around as a sort of ‘celebrity support crew’. There were no limos, fancy hotels, or gourmet meals, but they were living the high life as eyewitnesses to God Himself showing His glory on earth!
But Mark 8:31 marks a pivotal change in their experience, as Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” These words surely made them uneasy. No one wants to hear that suffering, rejection, and death are going to be in their future, even if that suffering, rejection, and death are going to happen to someone else and you have to witness it!
Then, instead of easing the blow, Jesus added to it by saying, “‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.'” (Mark 8:34-35) It was bad news to hear that Jesus was going to suffer – but now things were getting personal. This was not what they signed up for as a celebrity support team!
A few days later, Jesus took three of those disciples – Peter, James, and John – up a mountain, where they were given an out-of-this-world glimpse of God’s glory in the face of Jesus. Mark records that “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.” (Mark 9:3-4) Any lingering doubts the three of them may have had about Jesus being the Son of God were in this moment erased.
And then Peter – in classic Peter open-mouth-insert-foot style (I think that’s why he’s my favorite) said to Jesus, “‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.'” (Mark 9:5) From Peter’s perspective, this seemed like a good place to dwell – to stop and stay for a while. With all that potential suffering, rejection, and death in their future, this place seemed safe.
John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” That word “dwelling” means Jesus stopped and stayed for a while – He put up His “tent” with us.* In Peter’s eyes, that “tent” needed to stay here and be his safe place. But what Peter didn’t know is what we know now – that because of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, His Spirit now “lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17) This word “lives” means to “stay” or “remain”.** If you’ve believed in Christ, He has become a moving-with-you refuge. Your ‘safe place’ now goes with you wherever you go!
Life – specifically life as a follower of Jesus – has a way of leaving you feeling exposed. Pain and suffering of any kind (especially the kind that comes with rejection) brings out our weaknesses and character flaws, leaving them bared before the world. It happened to Peter (Mark 14:66-72) and it happens to us, too.
It’s in this exposure that the heart’s true place of security is revealed. When a ‘tent’ I’ve been running to for safety ceases to exist, I’m reminded that the Spirit of God living in me is my only true refuge.
And even though I know this to be true, it boggles my mind that I don’t run to Him in the moments I need Him most. I wish I could “get it” – I wish I could snap my fingers and make Him my number-one go-to, but as author Brennan Manning states in his book, Ruthless Trust, “This kind of trust is acquired only gradually and most often through a series of crises and trials.” Every ounce of exposure we experience strips us of our man-made ‘shelters’ and deepens our dependence on Him alone.
I’m so thankful God has chosen to make His residence not in a geographic location, but with our moving selves. He’s a constant “shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4) and even when we aren’t aware of His protection, it’s still there. Feeling exposed is scary, but you are always in your safe place!