Mountain Lessons

… today’s first lesson’ was in these little mountain paths. I followed mine only a few yards further this morning & such an outburst of beauty came. You can never tell to what untold glories any little humble path may lead, if you only follow far enough.” Diary 13 August 1899

Switzerland. Lilias takes a much-needed break from the work and weather of an Algerian summer. The cool mountain air provides a welcome contrast to the heat and humidity of the crowded Casbah.

She begins her day with a walk along a mountain pathway. The path itself is stony and rugged; the guiding fence in disrepair. The excursion promises no particular enticements but fresh air and a distant mountain view. But, then, advance a few yards – and she is greeted by an unexpected burst of beauty!

Who has not had the experience of rounding a bend, on foot or in vehicle, to an unexpected vista: an open field of vibrant red poppies, the sudden dip to a lush green valley, a glimpse of lake shimmering in the sun. One can only wonder what untold glories” we might have missed by stopping short.

The same can be experienced in the unseen world of the spirit. There are countless reasons for stopping short” on the humble paths of the daily life: Discouragement – not much action on such an ordinary path… Fear – one never knows what dangers might lurk in the unknown… Distraction – many are the enticements that lure one off course… Weariness – hardly enough energy to take another step… Lethargy – who cares, why even bother… Yet, who knows what untold glories” one might miss by not proceeding a bit further along the humble path.

Often the greatest blessings come when we least expect it and in the most unexpected places. Most often it is when we are following the simple path set before us: the daily duty, the menial task. It comes along the humble path of daily obedience – if we only follow far enough.” Oswald Chambers wrote, The only way a servant can remain true to God is to be ready for the Lord’s surprise visits… This sense of expectation will give our life the attitude of childlike wonder He wants it to have.” (March 29)

My personal application of the mountain lesson is to intentionally cultivate a childlike sense of expectation – to be open to the possibility of the untold glories” to which any little humble path may lead – if I only follow far enough.

Sails to the Wind

Sails to the Wind

I am seeing more and more that we begin to learn what it is to walk by faith when we learn to spread out all that is against us: all our physical weakness, loss of mental power, spiritual inability – all that is against us inwardly and outwardly – as sails to the wind and expect them to be vehicles for the power of Christ to rest upon us. It is so simple and self-evident – but so long in the learning!” Diary – 22 August 1902

Small vessel, large body of water. Clear sea, blue skies, and a mountain view. Sailing is smooth in calm weather but all that is needed to put that fragile craft at risk is a gust of wind from a sudden squall.

Small vessel, large body of water – a perfect picture of my vulnerability to the storms that assail me – outwardly or inwardly. Physical weakness… loss of mental powers… spiritual inability.…” Any of these could be enough to capsize the craft of my fragile self. More often it is all the above that conspire to my collapse – each swell or wave converging in force: my physical state affecting my mental and emotional state, taking its toll on my spiritual well being.

Yet, within this very picture of vulnerability is the solution for survival. My knee-jerk response to the waves that buffet me is varied: recoil, resist, fight back, cave in. The antidote that Lilias presents, however, is straight from Scripture: take all that is against us – inner and outer – and hold them up as sails” for God to empower. His power is made perfect in weakness.” An exchange: my weakness for God’s power.

What is against” me? At the start, I have certain physical limitations which invariably takes its toll on other areas of my life – my state of mind, my emotions. And there are the outward forces which, like those summer squalls, come unexpectedly, often defeating me if not in body in soul. I must take all that is against me – inwardly and outwardly – and spread my weaknesses as sails for God’s power.

What might this look like for another? The particulars will be individual: physical weakness (sleeplessness from night shifts with an infant, chronic pain, a permanent disability) – sails for God’s power… loss of mental powers (relentless work pressures, pressing demands with studies, financial stress, depression ) – sails for God’s power… spiritual inability (character deficiencies, addictions, doubt, moral temptation even failure) – sails for God’s power.…

Storms beyond our control assail us throughout life. We pray the plight of the Breton fisherman:

Lord, Your sea is so vast,
and my little boat is small.

God answers: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Images and text shared with the author’s permission from Images of Faith: Reflections Inspired by Lilias Trotter (Devotional Edition) by Miriam Rockness. Lilias Trotter Legacy, 2019.

Text First Published April 2019 · Last Featured on February 2023