A Tree Between Two Mountains
I’m not sure who first coined the phrase ‘mountain-top experiences’ when describing intense moments of spiritual intimacy with God, but it is fitting. As I pause in my journey as a disciple, turn my head back to survey just how far I’ve come, I can still see the peaks I’ve stood on in triumph. The heat of the Spirit’s flame leaves a warm glow in our memory, and we long for another summit to climb. I’ve stood on mountain tops while on camps as a youth, in quiet libraries with tears on my face as I’ve read fresh truths, in solitude on quiet walks as I’ve poured out my heart to the Lord, and at conferences surrounded by thousands.
I recall one in particular, a large conference held in Sydney, Australia, some years back. God was at work. The Holy Spirit powerfully wielded the Word in that place. I have no doubt that hundreds, if not thousands, of lives and ministries were altered in profound ways over those four days.
Then I came home.
Within the space of 24 hours, I found myself sharing the shade with Elijah under a Broom tree.
My wife had been sick with the flu before I left to attend, but had been feeling better in the few days prior to me leaving. Unknown to me, while I was away, a secondary lung infection set in and had begun its destructive work. I came home to a very sick wife. The following week was a flurry of Doctor's visits and a trip to the emergency department for X-Rays, an ECG, various blood tests, etc. Meanwhile, my four children needed to be fed, cleaned, dressed, packed for school, fed again, cleaned again, packed for school again—and so it went.
I'm thankful that God graciously spared me from growing resentful toward my wife and children, but in the private recesses of my mind, and when all was finally quiet at night, I slumped down into the shade of the Broom tree beside Elijah. The mountain top was long gone. Only a deep valley remained.
1 Kings 18—19, is a sweeping narrative that moves between two mountains via a Broom tree.
At Mt Carmel, Elijah saw God in the thunderous fire from heaven that consumed the alter. At Mt Carmel, God showed up in unmistakable ways.
Later, at Horeb, the mountain of God, the LORD revealed himself not through fire, but instead a gentle whisper. Hiding in a cave, Elijah saw all the usual metaphors of God's power and might sweep past, yet finally found his God in the gentle whisperings of the Almighty.
But between these two mountains lay a desert and a tree. Under this Broom tree Elijah would lie down in despair and seek to escape life itself.
And I've been keeping him company.
What did Elijah have to learn? And what have I learnt? And maybe, what must you learn, in the shadow of the Broom tree?
We must all learn of the sustaining goodness of our God for the journey.
We must not fall into the trap of only seeing God on the mountain tops of life; falsely believing that if we soak enough of Him in in those moments it will sustain us until the next peak. God is in the valley also. God is in the dry and barren places. God meets us in the shadow of the Broom tree. There, as he does in all places, God sustains us with what is needed for the journey ahead.
God has moved powerfully in my life during those moments standing on spiritual peaks. I am grateful for His grace shown to me as he reveals himself in powerful ways. But it's been here, in the kindness of my church family, in the countless meals dropped over, the thoughtful messages left, the prayers of the saints, the generosity of extended family. God has been here also.
So savour Him on the mountain tops when He shows up with burning fire, and hear Him in the cleft of the rock when He gently whispers your name, but learn to see Him in the shadow of the Broom tree, as He lays out a feast of His sustaining goodness and bids you eat.