We plan to return to Papua in about a month. As that return date approaches, I've been reflecting a bit on this time that the Lord has given us away from the front lines.
In particular, I've been thinking a bit about how often Jesus retreated to the solitude of the mountains during his tumultuous ministry years here on earth. Despite the fact that some of the tumult in my own ministry is of my own making, my family and I have been incredibly fortunate to have had an opportunity to do some of the mountain thing recently. As I've noted before, by God's mercy, we've been ensconced in a cabin on a lake in Vermont for the past few months.
It's the kind of place you never want to leave. And yet, we know that this place is not our home, it's a way station on our journey, a mountaintop to which we've retreated. It would be a hard thing to leave this mountaintop, except that we came up here to be with our Master--and we have met Him and enjoyed Him fully--and now it is He that is heading back down the mountain and we'd be crazy not to follow. Jesus always comes off the mountain. Jesus called us to simply follow...what a tragedy it would be if we stayed on the mountain after our Master had made His way back down. Without Him up here, this mountaintop would become a cold, windy and desolate place.
At times, I have felt far removed from the battlefield that life and ministry can feel like at times in Papua. I've struggled to not feel guilty as my colleagues continue to fight the good fight while I have retreated from the front lines for a while. That said, I find that if I stay in the battle too long, I lose focus...I'm still fighting, but I'm swinging blindly, ineffectively. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jesus showed us the "work hard - retreat deeply" model that He lived by. It is amazing to me that God, from the very beginning--as in the second chapter of the Bible--modeled this work-rest cycle for us. These weren't simply instructions from the Creator to the creation...the Creator followed the pattern in His own work and creativity.
It is also fascinating to me that in a perfect, pre-sin world, we were designed to work hard, then rest deeply. Like everything else, sin screws up this perfect balance and we either end up working too much or resting too much.
And so we'll drink deeply of the solitude, be refreshed by the beauty all around us, not as an end in itself, but as a time to be still with God, gain His perspective on the valley below, and follow Him back down the mountain, filled with joy...not just for the time on the mountain, but also for the anticipation of what the path ahead holds...because He's on it.