the mountain



Today, my wife and I conquered squaw peak, and we both fell in love with Phoenix. Up there, it seemed we were transported to another plane, I felt at once so distant and so close to the city and this land; serenely isolated, yet passionately intimate. And the rugged stony terrain of the mountain triggered images of Jesus climbing a mountain similar to squaw peak.

And all this time I thought Jesus might have prayed after he reached the summit, that once he got to the highest point, he sat lotus position and found perfect stillness. But the prayers in the bible were always physical, whether it be Moses facing the thunders and the harsh winds as God chiseled on a tablet, or Elijah hiking the same mountain while the earth shook, or Jesus, in Gathsemane, praying so hard that his sweat became like blood.
I imagine Jesus praying as he grabbed a jutting rock crawling up a narrow and steep pass. I think most of his prayers were done while climbing and that when he got up, and he only saw the stars and the quiet villages under them, he already got his answer. And I think after one of those climbs he looked down and saw the whole world, and saw me, and he said, “Father, I will lay down my life for him.”
And as I sat on the jagged head of squaw peak, it was this image that nursed my heart sick with the constant tension and distance of the ideal and reality, of what i preach and what i live.
The breeze soothed my skin, the clouds veiled the sun, the streets of Phoenix pulsed with life, and I got up, ready and happy to climb down…ready to start again

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