When I first moved to Nashville back in August, I was shocked by the amount of greenways, parks, and hills that surrounded my neighborhood in Bellevue. After spending the summer in Colorado with a view of the Rockies every morning I was grateful to see even a glimpse of them at the Warner Parks or in the rolling hills of Leiper's Fork.
In Colorado this summer I spent three months working at at Young Life camp called Crooked Creek Ranch. There I learned the beauty and difficulty of living in community with twenty-two other interns, working alongside a team of people in creating a space for kids to encounter the Gospel, and seeing the importance of spending time with the Lord daily. Like the geography I was surrounded by, this summer was a “mountain experience” in my life, one that has marked me forever.
“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” Isaiah 55:12
Sometimes in life I find myself in the midst of one of these “mountain” seasons while at other times, and much in like the past few months, I find myself in a “hill” season. Instead of being filled with days of “Instagramable moments” and high-energy a hill season consists more of living the day-to-day in normalcy. Being a part of the Nashville Fellows Program means spreading time between class, work, homework, church, Youth Group, host families, and developing relationships with the other Fellows. There is much joy to be had, along with the occasional feelings of weariness in spending time in all of these areas. While moving through these areas I’ve allowed myself to get caught up in going through the motions of it all, to even consider some daily activities as mundane tasks that I must check-off.
As Isaiah states in the above verse, the Lord recognizes and uses the hills to shape and challenge us. He delights equally in the hill seasons of our lives as he does in the mountain ones, and he invites us to delight in both of those seasons as well. With this I am reminded of Jim Elliot’s prayer recorded in one of my favorite books, Shadow of the Almighty, when he states:
“Teach me Lord Jesus to live simply and love purely like a child and to know that you are unchanged in your attitudes and actions towards me. Give me not to be hungering for the ‘strange, rare, and peculiar’ when the common, ordinary, and regular- rightly taken- will suffice to feed and satisfy the soul. Bring struggle when I need it: take away ease at your pleasure”.
In worship our eyes are taken off of ourselves and are rightly set back on to the Father. When this happens, the common and ordinary instead become established and holy. It’s in consistency, in the hills, that we are transformed and shaped the most.
I’ve also been learning this year that maybe it’s not just important to recognize how the “mundane” hill seasons of our lives shape us, but to realize how “hill-sized idols” effect our hearts, minds, and souls as well. We must name the small (and even sometimes seemingly unimportant or unnoticeable) places of darkness in our lives; that it’s the “little foxes that spoil the vineyards” as King Solomon puts it (Songs of Solomon 2:5). How often I’ve dismissed the “hill-sized” sin of dying to win the approval of others or let the tiny lie of believing I’m not worthy ruin the vineyard of my soul and become the very ruler of my identity.
This year, we’ve had the privilege of being taught by Scotty Smith for our Bible class on Monday mornings. A few weeks ago Scotty spoke to us about the danger of idolatry and gave us a list of questions to think through when attempting to identify the idols of our hearts. I’ve been convicted by and found freedom in leaning into the Spirit’s teaching when answering the questions below. I encourage you to do the same!
“Without falling into the ‘paralysis of analysis,’ what’s your response to the following questions? You might discover ways you are under-valuing Jesus and His grace, and over-valuing other people and things:
1. What do you worry about most?
2. What do you fear losing more than anything else?
3. Whose praise can make you, and whose criticism can devastate you?
4. What do you daydream about the most?
5. What makes you the angriest, the quickest?
6. What is your “boast”—that is, what are you most proud of, about yourself?
7. What do you lead with in conversations?
8. What are you most zealous for people to know about you, and most careful for them not to know?
9. What have you lost that’s still very hard to accept, or move on from?
10. What (or who) do you, possibly, over-need in this season of life?”
The Fellows Program is teaching me the importance of establishing healthy routines in post-grad life and how to worship in them. I am grateful for the people and rhythms of the program that have made this year home. Ultimately, I am thankful that our God is one of intimate detail and infinite wisdom, and that he wants every part of us. My prayer is that we would have the eyes and humility of Jesus to treasure, delight in, and struggle through the hills of our daily lives. That we would have the boldness to ask for revelation in recognizing the idols of our hearts (no matter how seemingly insignificant) and would then turn from them and back to the Lord.