When the Mountain Top Experience Looks More Like a Valley - Alec Jesperson
A phrase you hear get tossed around here at Horn Creek is the idea of a “mountain top experience”. With every group that comes and goes you can just about expect to hear this at some point. Typically, their last group session, we get to hear about how being in a place up in the mountains is a great mountain top experience where God feels so much closer and we’re so much more on fire for Him. This is, of course, usually followed by a statement about how we need to carry these feelings and attitudes back to the valley, back to everyday life.
But what happens when the experience that you thought was supposed to be your mountain top turns out to be one of your deepest valleys?
Coming into the Fellowship at Horn Creek I knew it was going to be hard work, but I was sure it was going to be this awesome spiritual experience where I was going to come out the other end knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life and be riding the best spiritual high ever. I’m not sure I could’ve been more wrong.
Having only become a Christian as a freshman in college, and being surrounded by great community and a great Church I did not really have time to experience what it was like to go through a spiritual valley. Finding myself in small Westcliffe, Colorado isolated on a mountain with a small community that was nothing like what I had grown comfortable with left me in a place I wasn’t used to. I didn’t have a countless number of people to look to for guidance and accountability, I didn’t have the community to go to for deep discussion, and I didn’t have the consistent schedule of going to church and being a part of a body of believers. It might seem like these things would be automatic things at a Christian camp, especially in a program such as the fellowship, but that’s not what I found. When I allowed these things to become an excuse to not get into the word and spend time with the Father, I quickly found myself wondering why I felt the way I did about camp, life, and even God. It was not a pretty place and it was the opposite of where I had imagined I would be. But I began to see that the even though the valley might not be where I wanted to be, it was okay to be going through. It might not be ideal but valleys and peaks are a natural part of life I would say.
Up on the mountain at Horn Creek, to go anywhere you must go through the valley first. Want to go to the grocery store? Leave the mountain and go into the valley. Want to go to the next town over for a day off? Go through the valley. The thing is the valley can still be a beautiful place where we still feel God’s presence. From the mountain I can’t get the best view of the sunset, I must go back into town, in the valley. I’ve found throughout this year, that it can be much the same in spiritual life as well.
I had to get away from the idea that God can only feel close during mountain top experiences, and the day I discovered this I started to pursue my faith greater than I ever had before. The very things that I had used as an excuse to avoid pursuing my faith became the things that God used to strengthen it. Rather than letting isolation or lack of community and church be those barriers I used them as the motivation to develop a self-discipline in spending time in the Word and with the Father.
Now, being at the end of the year and being able to reflect on this journey, I can see a little bit more of the picture and realize that even when living on the mountain top, a trip to the valley every now and again is necessary. This time my trip to the valley wasn’t for the grocery store or a fun adventure but it was to develop a daily discipline in reading His word and being steadfast in prayer and the Holy Spirit. And even though points of this particular trip to the valley might not have been the best, I know that as a believer, God works everything together for my good (Romans 8:28) and I can trust that He is there and working in me.