I have a confession to make. I am a mountains girl. I don’t care for the feel of sand and waves between my toes. Instead, I long for hiking boots, waterfalls, and mountain tops peaking above the clouds. I am convinced that God created the mountain creeks and streams simply because He knew that I would find so much joy in their existence.
This last weekend, I went to my happy place; I went camping with a few of my girlfriends in the Pisgah Forest of North Carolina. The Pisgah Forest makes up a section of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range. It is so beautiful and peaceful there. I enjoy seeing the sun rise and set over the mountains, discovering wildflowers in bloom, and watching the fish swimming in the waters. I get excited about feeling the icy cold water of the creeks and streams on my bare feet and being enveloped in the fresh, crisp mountain air while sleeping in my tent. I rejoice at hearing the leaves on the tall trees rustle in the breeze, the birds sing their songs with reckless abandon, and the laugh of friends as we sit around the campfire eating the delicious food we cooked there. I even enjoy the rain, because the scent of wet leaves on the forest floor is intoxicating to me.
I have visited many mountainous areas and each has its own personality. I have seen the rockiness of the Rocky Mountains, the starkness of the Wichita Mountains in the plains of Oklahoma, the volcanos of the lush Guatemalan mountains, the country-home feel of the Appalachian mountains, and the majesty of the snow covered Alps. With all their differences there is one thing all these mountains had in common—valleys. When I talk about the mountain experience, I am usually talking about a time when I was experienced both the mountains and the valleys. They go hand in hand. The definition of valleys is a place that exists between mountains or hills and usually has a river running through it. If I was to think through all my mountain experiences, I would have to admit that more than half of them happened in the valley between the mountains.
Life is also like that. The mountain tops and the valleys go hand in hand. Most of us prefer to stay on the mountain tops because we define these as the exciting moments. We want to experience the joy that comes with life going well. We also work to avoid the metaphorical valley because that is where life is not going so well. We see it as a place of tears and toil.
A couple days before my camping trip, I was having one of those valley days. It was not a deep “darkest valley” day like the one mentioned in Psalm 23:4 (NLT). It was more a “the plethora of trees that I normally love are blocking out the sun” kind of valley day. It started with a grumpy exchange with Handsome first thing in the morning and it did not get better. Work was stressful. The cat would not stop meowing for no reason. I had too many things to get done. Plus, I had to finish mowing the yard even though it was hot and humid. As the stinky day came to a close, I sat down in my favorite rocking chair to have my Bible study time. I was too tired to do my usual routine, so I just flipped open the Bible to Psalm with the hopes of finding something easy and comforting. I soon found myself at Psalm 23. Classic and no challenging verses to wade through. Great! I could read that, pray, and then head to bed.
God’s scripture is interesting. Just when you think you have it figured out, you learn there is still more to discover. That is what happened to me that night. Even as I struggled to keep my eyes open, I noticed something I had not noticed before. The grammar of Psalm 23; specifically, the verb tenses. I do not know about you, but I usually try to avoid grammar lessons as I am getting ready for bed. However, I was too tired to stop myself from stumbling into this one.
As I read Psalm 23 in the New Living Translation, I noticed that except for two short sections in verses 4 and 6, all the verbs are in the present tense. In other words, these verses are describing something that God is doing in the right now. The two sections in verse 4 and 6 are future tense (what God will do at a future time.)
But if I go back to the grammar lesson, I see that God is not following a chronological path. King David is saying that right now…and right now…and right now...God is shepherding, leading, renewing, guiding, protecting, comforting, preparing, honoring, and overflowing into my life—in the present tense. So no matter what kind of valley I am walking through, “the darkest valley” kind or the less severe "trees blocking out the sun" kind of valley, I can know it is also a right now, present tense moment.
As a mountains girl, that makes sense to me. When I think of the mountains I have experienced, green meadows are found down in the valley and peaceful streams run through the valley. Feasts happen down in the valley. Times of anointing happen at the churches down in the valley. The overflowing of blessings happens at homes down in the valley. Sure, they can exist on the mountains also, but they are most frequently found in the valleys. That is why King David is able to say in verse 6, “surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…”. King David was aware that even in “the darkest valley” our God never stops shepherding, leading, renewing, guiding, protecting, comforting, preparing, honoring, and overflowing. Those are present tense, right now things that God is always doing for us.
One of the famous lines from Psalm 121 says, “I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord…!” When we are looking up to the mountains, we are usually in a valley. It would be easy to assume that we will only find relief from the valley if we are up on the mountain. Yet, our help comes from the Lord because He is a present tense God who does the same things in the valley as He does on the mountains.
Though I may define myself as a mountain loving girl, it is refreshing to know that God is not just leading me through the valleys. He is actively, in the present tense shepherding, leading, renewing, guiding, protecting, comforting, preparing, honoring, and overflowing whether I am on the mountain, in the valley, or even when I face the trials and tribulations of a sandy beach.
Hello! I am Dawnita Hall. Sometimes I need to put into words the things God is teaching me. This blog is my way of sharing those moments with you with the hopes that what God is using to grow and encourage me will also inspire you. Please, share your thoughts in the comment sections after each post. Let's make this a place where we work together to encourage each other to live inspired to be an inspiration.