My wife and I went hiking over the weekend. It was the perfect autumn day for a hike. The temperature was cool enough to stop the sweat, but warm enough for short-sleeved tshirts. There was little or no wind at the top. The views were an amazing display of beauty. We felt so good that despite our tired limbs and despite the fact that we were barely going to make it back by dusk, we saw the next peak and decided to keep climbing. It would only put us about an hour and a half behind, so we decided to jump at the opportunity to cross another mountain off our list.
So we began to climb, which held significantly more challenge (and less touristy travelers than the other mountain). Nearing the top, we passed two experienced hikers that said we were a mere hundred or so yards from the top. They said the views were not amazing, but to feel good that we climbed it. With joy, we reached that point and began the exhausting decent from what we thought was the top. Upon heading back down the mountain, I felt Lot’s position as my wife looked back and came to a humbling realization: we did not quite make it to the top! Deflated, we knew we did not have the time to go back and conquer the peak, but we also knew that meant deep inside we knew we had not really made our quest. While we tried to make ourselves feel better, it really did hurt.
Upon our return to the previous rock summit, we noticed that the two hikers that gave us the erring advice were still there. We gently broke the news to them and were confronted with looks of reassurance. The more experienced said, “We made the same mistake, thinking that we were missing the peak, but being reassured by others that we had reached the summit.” We felt ecstatic!
How fickle and conflicting are our thoughts? I reflected on how important that hope of accomplishment was and how easy it was to sink when we realized everything we worked for did not reach true meaning. What an appropriate place to start a new painting. I considered the mountain and how different it was from the sky. The textures were different, but instead of being in contention, that made the memory. I think of our hike. While our thoughts went back and forth from overwhelming joy to deep sorrow, that made the memory.
Jürgen Moltmann possibly more than any other theologian of the twentieth century has taken a major analysis of the meaning of the cross and its influence on faith. Discussing the diametrical vision of the cross, he explains:
“Faith owes it’s liberty to the awareness of this crucified God. In the crucified Christ it recognizes the divine right of grace which justifies those who have no rights. In him it also becomes aware of the creative love of God which makes the ugly lovable. Hence, it recognizes in him also the beauty of God which gives joy to those who mourn.” (Moltmann, Theology and Joy, 1973)