Bob Tamasy: Inspired By The Mountaintop, Mired In The Valley

  • Thursday, June 1, 2023
  • Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

A while back, some friends and I were engaged in a discussion about moments when we each felt the presence of God most profoundly. For some it was one or more palpable, almost tactile experiences; indelible impressions that resonate years later. They expressed a yearning to revisit those times or to experience more of them.

While I can’t claim having a singular Damascus Road encounter such as Saul had, resulting in his dramatic conversion from zealous Christian-hating Pharisee and transformation into the apostle Paul, a number of “mountaintop experiences” have become landmarks – watershed moments – for my spiritual pilgrimage. A couple of them occurred on a literal mountaintop, during CBMC family conferences conducted at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga.

Such experiences can and should etch themselves upon our minds – enduring reminders not only of God’s presence but also of lessons He was teaching to enable us to advance in our journey of faith. Alas, we can’t remain on mountaintops, either physically or spiritually. For one thing, there’s not much room there. Also, angelic, inspiring mountaintops aren’t where real life takes place. Sooner or later, we must descend into what some writers have referred to as “demon-infested valleys.” But that doesn’t mean the Lord’s not still with us.

This is true for spiritual pilgrims of the 21st century, but also was the case for saints dating back to biblical times. Moses is one of the earliest examples, climbing up Mount Sinai to meet with God one-on-one and receive what turned out to be Israel’s marching orders for the next 40 years.

In Exodus 19:20 we read, “The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain.” There God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and numerous other statutes and regulations for conducting lives of righteousness, justice and mercy. Meanwhile, down in the valley, the Israelites with short memories were into all sorts of mischief, fashioning a golden calf and worshiping it as a god while they burst into riotous revelry.

Another poignant mountaintop experience is recounted in Matthew 17:1-9, when Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain where they witnessed His visage transfigured: “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”

How did the three disciples respond? They must have been more than astounded. Perhaps at a loss for words, Peter blurted out the only thing that seemed appropriate: “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Then came the clincher, the moment that inscribed the experience into their psyches like a hot brand: “While [Peter] was speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well-pleased. Listen to Him!”

Understandably, the trio of disciples fell to the ground face down in great fear. But Jesus instructed them to get up, not be afraid and, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Then they went down from the mountain.

Do you think their descent into the valley below was quite the comedown, not only physically but also spiritually? To top it off, they had been commanded not even to mention their experience to anyone else. They had to play ‘I’ve Got a Secret’ long before anyone would conceive of creating a game show by the same name.

I’d imagine Peter, James and John hearkened back to that surreal moment numerous times during their three-year rollercoaster of following Jesus. Maybe more than once they looked knowingly at one another and said, “Hey, you wanna go back to the mountaintop?”

We’re not much different. We long for those times – even fleeting moments – when God seemed so close it was almost as if He were clutching our hand. However, while we can be thrilled by the mountaintop, He intends for us to exist in the valleys.

Even there we can be assured of His presence, even if the sensory or emotional impact is lacking. As King David wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…” (Psalm 23:4).

His presence is with us on the mountaintop, those life-changing moments we’ll never forget. But He’s just as present in the valleys we travel through every day. God has promised, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or terrified…for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). His presence is with us here, there, and everywhere.

* * *

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is btamasy@comcast.net.

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