A few weeks ago I went on vacation to Colorado with dantheman and his crew on their annual hunting trip. I was excited to return to this particular spot because it was the sight of one my most powerful experiences with God.
Back in 2008 when I went on my first hunting trip, I had recently left my first ministry job (mutual agreement) and was feeling pretty burned out. I hadn’t had a real vacation in a few years, and jumped at dantheman’s invite to spend some time in the wilderness. I bought and borrowed all the camping gear I thought I might need and headed out with the guys to Colorado.
I spent a majority of the week hiking on my own around the mountains of Colorado, stopping whenever I found a nice place to sit for a while and read the Word. One day I was hiking along the ridge of a mountain that had a steep drop off, which made for some great views over the valleys to the south. I stopped at the peak and read the Word for a while and came across one of my favorite stories, the crossing of the Jordan river as the Israelites enter the promised land. After their crossing, God calls them to build an altar out of 12 stones to be a memorial of the event.
I spent most of the afternoon that day in silent prayer, listening to God, soaking in the beauty of His creation. As it got late, I gathered 12 stones and built an altar to commemorate the experience.
Fast forward four years, and were heading back to Colorado. I’ve got the same bible in hand, and I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with God out in the middle of nowhere. One of the afternoons I set out to track down that altar, and after a few hours of hiking along the ridges of the mountains I came across:
I was overjoyed to find my altar still there. Even though it looked like it had been knocked over by the wind (the gusts that come across the valley and straight up the mountain face are pretty powerful, and provide a pretty good rush when you lean over the edge) I was excited to spend the rest of the afternoon in worship at that mountain peak.
I rebuilt the altar and thought back to my journey four years ago. Like I previously mentioned, I was burned out. I was frustrated with church, our systems of ministry, feeling like I had wasted a significant time of my life. I remember telling God that I wasn’t sure I could handle the heartache of ministry anymore, but I wasn’t sure what my other options were. I stayed there for a while, standing in the wind, staring out at the amazing view.
After a few hours of a sense of peace and calm came about me. There’s something about staring face to face with Gods creation that helps out thing into perspective. The same God that created this:
is the same God that calls is to be still, and know Him.
Looking back on all of my frustrations, insecurities and questions, they seem like a story from another lifetime. Sitting at that altar helped me realize that God spoke to every single one of the issues I was struggling with in His time. My church is a source of joy and encouragement, I’m surrounded by a healthy and creative ministry team, and spend an increasing amount of time working with other YMs through tough ministry situations.
God often called people to build altars as reminders to mark their journeys, and His providence throughout. One of the themes that is abundantly clear throughout the Bible is how easy it is for us to forget who God is, and what He has done for us. We live in an age of constant noise and distraction, which would seem to only foster this theme.
So may we be a people that continually build altars. May we be people that reflect and remember. May we take time to be still and know that He is God.
One love, one heart.