You know the opening scene from “The Sound of Music?” Where Maria is twirling on a hilltop and singing about the living, breathing, singing hills all around her?
Yeah. She was totally right.
Heath informed me, with a typical amount of lecture in his voice, that Maria was singing about the Austrian Alps, not the Swiss Alps.
I told him they were all alive, and all singing to me…and then I sang a few bars of the song at the top of my lungs, just to embarrass him. I would have done some running and twirling as well, except we were sharing our particular hilltop with fifty other hikers, and my public spectacle-making only extends so far.
But, in all seriousness…the Alps, people. Saying they are spectacular doesn’t do them justice. There aren’t enough words.
We took a train to the top of a mountain near the Matterhorn, where we were able to see for miles. We were above the timberline, which means there wasn’t enough oxygen for trees, or even grass, to grow. Walking up the short ramp to the observation deck left us both breathless. That’s how thin the air was. And it was cold.
Like, 45 degrees cold.
We stood for a long time, just gazing around us (and trying to start breathing normally again, instead of gasping like a couple of wimpy American tourists), and then we started hiking down.
The trail was single file, and Heath kept stopping to take pictures anyway, so I had time to listen as I hiked.
And I heard the Lord, there on the mountainside.
It started out small, barely a stirring in my heart. But as I walked it grew, until I had no choice but to stop, and to listen harder, and to really hear what He was saying to my soul.
“Do you see the mountain?”
‘Yes, Lord. It’s covered in snow. Its cold and forbidding and barren of green, void of life. I see the mountain. It frightens me with its loveliness, and with its danger.’
“Walk a few steps more.”
And so I did, and then a few steps more, and as I descended the mountain slowly, carefully picking my way around rocks in the path, the landscape started to change.
Now it wasn’t only rocks and dirt and cold blasting wind.
A few patches of moss appeared.
And then a few sprigs of grass.
And, shockingly, defying the odds of freezing temperatures and thin, oxygen deprived air, flowers poked their heads up, straining toward the sun. Pure white, shades of purple, and deep yellow dotted sparsely over the terrain, and I was charmed…but still I walked.
And then. Then I rounded a corner.
And there was a stream. Trickling happily along, tripping over rocks and sand. And on its banks…oh the colorful array of flowers here I beheld.
I stopped. His voice was stirring again.
“Do you see the stream? And the flowers?”
‘Oh, yes, Lord. Beautiful. This is much better than the mountain. So much more alive.’
“But, the stream was once the snow. The mountain waters the flowers.”
I sat down a few steps beyond the stream. A lump had formed in my throat, and I wanted to take a moment to process the words spoken to my heart.
The snow on the mountain, that makes it so forbidding, treacherous, even deadly…without it, there would be no stream, and no flowers.
The flowers grew here because there was water and more oxygen.
BUT…if not for the freezing temperatures above that kept the peaks capped in snow, and if not for the thin, lifeless air where trees couldn’t grow to absorb the melting drifts…
Without the deadly, cold, isolated mountain, there would be no life here where I sat.
And the lump turned into tears, and they trekked silently down my cheeks as I raised my eyes to the mountain again.
This is the same as our lives, isn’t it?
We embrace the air that is easy to breathe, and we celebrate the flowers and streams and the lovely sights and sounds and smells that go with them…
But we shy away from the cold, lifeless places; the hills too hard to climb, the bleak, isolated moments where we can barely catch our breath and nothing can shield us from the cold wind.
But…BUT…the lifeless, cold, barren, suffocating places…
Itsthere that we FIND HIM.
And HEAR Him.
And SEE Him.
He is the sound of music, alive on the mountain, singing to our lonely, dying hearts.
The wind blows icy sometimes, and travelers are weary, footsore, starving, breathless and afraid.
But He is not absent.
We must have the snow.
We must feel the wind.
We must embrace the lifeless steps.
Because those shape us, and mold us, and when we descend a bit…then a single yellow sprig will shoot up.
And then another…
And another, joined by white blooms, and shades of purple…
Until we are once again walking by a trickling, bubbling stream, and we could pick a bouquet of the flowers we find there, and we can breathe easily and fully…
But we must not forget the mountains.
Because there are some behind us, yes, but there are more in front of us.
That is life.
That is the walk.
It’s His plan, and it’s singing to us in the hills.
The cold, the desolation, the fear, the hurt, the confusion, the loneliness, the pain…
It is necessary.
It is how there can be life in the other places.
Wherever you find yourself today, whether cold, bleak mountaintop, or sparsely adorned hillside, or lush green valley, I pray you will hear what He is saying, and understand.
The hills ARE alive.
HE is the music.