Sometimes I day dream about living someplace different. When I think about what would be different about this someplace, most often I imagine that there are mountains. Tall, magnificent, lush mountainous terrain.
Or at least hills.
There is something about being on a mountain, or even near a mountain, that makes me breathe deep. Somehow I feel more grounded in the present. I feel more like myself than when I was standing on my ordinary, flat, sparsely grassed yard at home. I feel like I have the potential not only to live, but also to flourish.
Maybe I feel this way because in the part of Florida where I live, the closest thing we have to a mountain is a mound of dirt piled beside a construction site.
Or maybe it's not just me. After all, when we feel the highs of life or when we feel extremely close to God, don't we call these mountain-top experiences?
I know what it looks like to flourish on top of a mountain. It's easy because the soundtrack in the background is just my style and God is so close I can almost see His face and there is bounty in the blessings. The air is fresh and crisp, the sun is pleasantly warm and there are little purple flowers in the green, green grass. Everything is running smoothly and joyfully. I might even be able to hear someone singing exuberantly, "The HILLS are aliiiiiiiive!!!"
Yep, it's pretty easy up there on the mountain.
But I haven't quite figured out how to master this flourishing business down here in the valley- this often puzzling place where I live most of the time.
Even though I know it will look different, I have to imagine God wants us to flourish here, too. But this is where it's tricky. How do you translate mountain flourishing into valley flourishing? The idea of a valley, when compared to a mountain, seems totally opposite and kind of depressing. To flourish there doesn't make a lot of sense to me. But it might be that I'm looking at the valley all wrong. Maybe I'm a little misconstrued as to what a valley really is.
So I actually looked up the definition of valley. Nerd that I am. And most of what I found contained phrases such as low points and depressions between uplands and hollows and periods of fear and gloom.
But then there was this one definition that stood out from the others, and in it perhaps lies the key to flourishing when you feel like you are surrounded by drab. It said: "an elongated depression between uplands, hills, or mountains, especially one following the course of a stream." (from dictionary.com).
So there is life to be found in the valley, and nourishment, too.
"...but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mount, but we never live for His glory there." -Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 2nd devotion
It is good for us to be in awe of God's glory, but He has a course for us in the valley that we can't follow when we are sitting stationary.
We may doubt the purpose in walking most of our journey down in the valley, but the valley creates in us things the mountain never can. A steadfastness. A tested and proven faith. A humility that leads us to trust deeper the One who is guiding us. The valley is where, as Mr. Chambers put it so wisely, we find our true worth.
Though this life may be hard at times and seem more subdued than what we find when we are way up high, it doesn't have to be miserable. There is a peace and a quiet joy for us when we let go of having mountainous expectations for our everyday. Maybe as we do this, we can let our feet sink into the earth of this valley and at least begin to allow ourselves a little flourishing.
And there is reassurance knowing that we are never alone as we walk.
God is right there with us, carving His mark on us gently like the waters of a stream carve the space between two mountains.