Call it my nature or ethnicity (maybe a combination of both), but I’m not much into the outdoors. I think as a black man I’m genetically predisposed to twitch when I hear words like hiking, rock climbing or repelling. So when I stepped off the plane in Missoula, Montana some weeks ago you can understand why I kept asking myself what in the world am I doing here? Especially when you consider that Montana is not a state that’s real popular with the brutha’s. Maybe this solidifies my point about not being genetically predisposed…
About an hour after our plane landed I found myself in the middle of a twelve thousand acre ranch filled with mountains, ponds, streams, elk, deer and mountain lions! For the next week this was to be my home. And each morning my wife and I would peer out the living room window and soak in the incredible sights that the ranch had to offer. I remember being surprised when I wondered if life could get any better than this. A few days later as my trip was winding down I had an answer to that question.
Our time in Montana ended standing a top one of the mountains on the ranch. Looking out from the observation tower my hosts told me that I could see several states (which I had to take their word for since I never did that well in geography class). Through binoculars I saw more wildlife, the cabin where we were staying and a lot more of God’s creation. From where I was standing it became incredibly clear that those things that once seemed to tower over me looked awfully small! For those few hours that I spent on top of that mountain I gained a radically different perspective on the ranch, and really life in general.
Author Chuck Swindoll tells us that the problem with life is that it’s so daily. Back home in Memphis I too often find myself getting lost in the trees of dailyness. There’s a church to lead, sermons to write, staff to manage, blackberry’s to check, kids to pick up from school, a marriage to nurture and bills to pay. Sometimes the fog of life can blur your vision and diminish your perspective. There’s too many days where I feel as if I’m in the middle of a wilderness with no compass to guide me. Ever been there?
Standing on top of that mountain in Montana created in me a drive to get to higher ground. To find a place in my life where I can get my bearings, look out and see where I’m headed. No, I’m not talking about a literal mountain- Memphis doesn’t have those. Instead, the need to pull back, get away and look out. After all, Jesus did. When you read the biographies on his life you see him constantly getting away so that he could meet with God and gain some perspective. You have to believe that his pulling away gave him the strength he needed to sleep in the middle of storms, deal with the annoying religious leaders of his day, and handle the brutality of the cross. Because Jesus was always getting to higher ground this outfitted him with what he needed to navigate the dailyness of life. I figure if Jesus needed to get away, so do I.
Since Memphis doesn’t have mountains, what does my higher ground look like? Well it has different forms. On Monday’s, my day off, my higher ground is a golf course around the corner from my house. I’ll typically walk 18 holes by myself, praying, thinking, disconnecting as I walk. I turn my phone off, and just unplug. Once a month I go to a farmhouse not too far from where I live that a friend of mine owns. I don’t take my computer, again no phone. Just a bible and a notepad. This is my higher ground, where I can disconnect, and listen to God.
Where’s your higher ground? Where do you go to breathe, and see the forest from the trees? The older I get the more I realize that this isn’t an option, it’s a necessity.