Recently I was listening to a webinar on next steps and the leader suggested that we close our eyes and envision the path before us. Now generally I am not a visualization kind of person. I often lead these kinds of exercises because it is so valuable for many people to “see” something in order to achieve it. But I’m as likely to get a blank screen as an actual picture when I my eyes drop shut.
Still, I’m always up for trying, so I closed my eyes, drew in a couple deep breaths and asked God for some help in seeing a path before me. And for once it worked – I had a picture, not blackness, not just words swirling, but an actual picture, like my husband had taken one of his beautiful photographs. And the path before me was… a mountain.
Not a beautiful mountain path by a stream with some trees. Not a trail up a mountain that might require hard work but promises grand vistas when you reach the top. In fact, there really wasn’t even a top to my mountain, at least not one that I could see. It was just a big, dark, almost sheer rock face that seemed to shine eerily like an obsidian wall blocking my path. It filled my vision to the left and right and all the way up with no peak in sight. It was clear in my deep prayer sight that no path was marked and that there was very little potential for scaling this mountain.
Instead of being encouraging, as the webinar leader surely intended, this exercise began to crush my soul. You see, I have been going through some difficult times lately, both personally and professionally. This webinar was one of the first steps I was taking to get back on track, to redefine the difficult times and affirmatively find a new direction since several doors were recently closed. I was only just beginning to push past the feeling that my life was closing in, that there was no place or path for me. And now, here was that oppressive mountain with no way forward looming again.
So, I’ll be honest. To get out of my funk enough to even attempt the webinar, I had convinced myself that I was creating the barriers in my life. I was letting my disappointment and anger at a job I didn’t get and several deaths and sicknesses keep me from experiencing peace in the Divine Presence. Oh, I was meeting God in prayer, but it was not a pretty meeting!
I know all the Christian platitudes about how our loving God is always just waiting for us to turn, so we can be welcomed into that warm embrace. Surely the reason I feel so adrift and lost at the moment is because I am not following God; I am not going where God calls. And if I can find the path back to God, all will be, well, if not great at least better. That’s how I entered that seminar, drawing on hope that I almost didn’t feel. And as I found myself back in the Divine presence in that exercise, here I was faced again with the mountain of pain, blocking the way forward. And in that way that one knows in prayer what is true, I knew that the mountain was blocking the ways around and back too. There was no path at all, just that agony of being trapped.
But that was not the end of my vision. I had long since tuned out the webinar leader (sorry!) and was doing my best to stay in my vision, since I knew that God was there. And I experienced a feeling, as sure as any voice crying out, that told me to “embrace the mountain.” It was as if I had felt myself beating my head over and over against the black rock face and a hand came in to hold me and encourage me, even urge me to open my arms instead and embrace the mountain.
I’m sure I tossed out one of my sarcastic, “Seriously?” responses. I also know that it seemed as though my spirit was responding “I’ll try,” although much of my prayer at this point was not only wordless, but somehow beyond words.
I have spent countless hours since this time of prayer trying to discern exactly what “embrace the mountain” might mean. You may have ideas from your experience; I have explored several options. The experiences that resonate affirm that I have not created this mountain by any failure on my part. It may be there because God wants it to be there, so I can learn or experience something. Or it may just be a mountain that is there and God is hanging out with me while I explore. (Won’t it make a great blogpost when I finally learn whatever it is!)
I don’t like it, but the impasse isn’t evil. There’s a lot of life that is like that. Maybe that’s just a part of what we all can learn from this crazy experience. That, and be careful what you wish for. A picture must be worth a thousand words; my mountain finally got me back into writing my blog!
Are you someone who responds well to visualization exercises? What kinds of spiritual questions might you have right now that could be answered better with a picture than with words? Have you ever had a question that was answered in a way that seemed to cause pain instead of relief? If so, do you look back at that now and see relief in addition to pain? What do you think “embrace the mountain” might mean? Do you have any mountains that you need to embrace? Is there anything in life that you don’t like, but isn’t really evil? How do you reconcile that spiritually?
If you need help embracing your mountain or visualizing the answers to some of your deeper questions, contact Openings: Let the Spirit In for a free consultation.