I just returned home from a 6-day Young Life backpacking trip in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. I was with a group of high school students and two trained guides – 14 of us in total. We hiked 40 miles with 30+ pounds on our backs. We slept outside in fly tents, didn’t shower or wear deodorant, were only allowed to bring 2 pairs of underwear, went to the bathroom in a BIFF (bathroom in forest floor) using pine cones to wipe (too much info? sorry!), and ate every meal from the same cup which we “cleaned” out with a bandana that was so disgusting by the end of the week it made me want to throw up.
It was incredible.
On day 4 we climbed our steepest, highest peek to get to Goose Lake, a beautiful, still lake on top of the mountain. The only way up there is by foot and it’s impossible to get to in just a day trip. Few feet have traveled where we did.
As we climbed, we were surrounded by towering mountains, the purest, most vibrant colors and crisp air. We stopped for a moment to catch our breath and someone pointed to the mountain across the valley. I looked to see the most beautiful scene of the week; a scene that has burned in my memory since.
There was a moose effortlessly running diagonally down the mountain through a snow pile and then the green grass. The sun was beating down and this moose was so graceful and free as it spanned the side of the mountain. We all stared – silent, mesmerized and enchanted.
Perhaps the scene stood out in stark contrast to the extreme effort we exerted in getting that high up the mountain. Regardless, it was a moment of pure shalom. I felt that instantly but it took me some time to decide why.
Here’s what I’ve come away with…
I felt like I was spying on this moment between God and his creation, almost in a voyeuristic sort of way. This moose probably ran across the mountain every day and no one saw it. It felt like in spite of its serene beauty, this scene was not intended for my eyes. I was struck with the reality that this moment was just one of countless others happening all the time, all around the world, all throughout history AND NOBODY EXPERIENCES THEM BUT GOD.
I kept thinking, why? Why all this beauty that no one sees? It’s overwhelming to think about, really.
I think this speaks to the intimacy that God experiences with his creation. He loves it; he takes joy in it. This is shalom: the way it’s supposed to be. And I realized that God so desires to have this intimacy with me as well. As the most special part of his creation, God wants to love us deeply and intimately in front of no one’s eyes but his own. I’m not sure about you, but I rarely, if ever, let God do this.
I am too busy. My life is too full of people and coffee dates and emailing and movies and books and driving with the radio on. No wonder I so desperately crave shalom, yet experience it so infrequently.