Climbing mountains in our faith journeys
I was pondering recently the mountains we climb.
As an example, I think of the Cooper River Bridge Run, a tradition that draws thousands to our region. It is a gathering of those dedicated to good health, sportsmanship, competitive spirit and community. Many walked and everyone at a different level of ability. Many courageously completed the course with challenges as well.
For me, it symbolically spoke to the mountains we all climb. Many of our greatest moments of challenge and victory indeed take place in the public forum and the public eye. They also take place outside the public eye. Much preparation took place for those who competed in the Bridge Run. Much was unseen.
As we climb the mountains to reach our pinnacles of success, whether actual or symbolic, lets not look over the treasures that are buried in metaphorical dirt at its base. In the midst of the riches and blessing of the earth, in the midst of abundance and accomplishment, we must remember that though our Lord is found on the mountaintop; he reminds us again and again that He is reflected in those who can barely climb.
The most glorious feast is the table that welcomes those whose spirit and stomachs are hungry, and whose marathon is not physical in terms of miles but spiritual in terms of how deeply they traverse into the caves of their souls. Remember that courage and perseverance and faith are many times hidden in quiet, dark places — places where only the one who suffers and God can see. Warriors come in many forms, shapes and sizes, as do our mountains. For some, just getting out of bed is the mountain they climb. The ones whose pain is so severe that even small accomplishments are a triumph. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
We all admire achievement. We all enjoy celebrations and triumphs. However, we must see as Christians that our greatest victories are those of the soul. Our greatest and most profound transformations often take place in the very quiet — even lonely — and painful spaces of our lives.
Every single day, our lives are filled with a multitude of experiences, yet only when we hold closely to God, do our experiences serve to transmute our pain and suffering to glory. The Light. The Light serves the Light. Surrender to God’s will and even in our suffering, gratitude can exist for the gifts, wisdom and transformation being bestowed and worked upon us.
The wisdom of our elders: My maternal grandfather, George Mano,s told me when I was a child that “One’s life can change more in an instant than in years.” It took me until I was an adult to truly understand his words. Many times those “instants” are our greatest heartaches and tragedies. Yet, in those moments of seeming crisis, we are presented with an opportunity to walk through yet another door that moves us closer to the Lord.
The Christian journey is envisioned as carrying our cross and climbing the mountain, as was recently told to me by an Orthodox spiritual father, and also a journey of going deeper and deeper into our faith and growing closer and closer to our Lord.
We have all been witness not only to mountains climbed but also the mountains that have been moved in our lives. And among the most known verse on mountains: And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. (Matthew 17:20) Again, mountains are not only physical — but the very real ones we battle in” our souls — and to those the Lord has the power to move, again and again.
Jackie Morfesis has a BFA in fine arts, MA in liberal studies and teacher certification from Rutgers University. She held a Rotary scholarship to Greece in the arts and humanities. An artist, poet and educator, she is a Greek Orthodox Christian and involved with prison ministry in the Charleston area.