My friend Bill is the rector of Holy Innocents in Lahaina where we worship when on island. He’s fond of asking his tourist filled congregation to take a good look at the West Maui Mountains as they exit the church, and consider that, if that is what God can do with rocks, think what God can do with you. It’s an interesting challenge.
On the lee side of the island, the mountains tend toward shades of desert tan dotted with scrub brush. On the other side they are the lush green of the tropical rain forest. A portion of them is the site of a bloody battle in which the stream ran with blood from a dam of dead bodies. The interior of the collapsed volcano that formed the mountains is off limits, sacred ground, that is forever tempting the curious to go in anyway. They don’t get far. Great beauty, great trial, great tragedy, great joy, great pleasure. Born of violence and fire, nurtured in a history that is still unfolding, slowly eroding into the sea from which they came.
If these mountains are a metaphor for what God can do with us, it would take the courage of a saint to take God up on the offer. But isn’t that what the bible records in the lives of God’s people? Find, if you can, a story of a person in the bible who was not brought into the fullness of being except through fire and trial. How is it, then, that those who have tasted it proclaim that it is their greatest joy, worth every trial, and would not be traded for anything?
How can that be? Consider this, ignoring God’s invitation and going on about one’s way without him, does not avoid the trials and tribulations of life. They come anyway. Looking upon the destruction of Jerusalem, the writer of Lamentations remembered that God does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone. It is God who brings us through these times in love, and, to the extent that we are able to cooperate, uses them to bring us to a place of greater good.
The trick is not to look at the mountains and walk away, hoping to avoid such a difficult process of formation, but to trust that in saying yes to God’s invitation, all that life will thrust at us anyway, the way of our crosses, will become our ways of life, peace, love, reconciliation and resurrection.