The Unnecessary Mountain
Thoughts about anxiety and the clouds that block our clarity.
There was a day that began with clustered thoughts. A closet that had remained out of order but functional. I walked out the door, clothed in the clutter of that closet. God knows I hate wearing my feelings on my sleeves. And yet. I’m an emotional rider. Quite literally, I ride my bike to map out my emotions, stretch across landscapes to comprehend back-burning thoughts. Some people turn to comfort food for the same reason. I ride every time my mind reaches the brink of its emotional capacity, high or low. A couple of weeks ago, I felt I’d arrived at my wit’s end. Believe me, I can be witty and quick comebacks were incapable of filtering through my mind. I felt out of touch with reality. Stresses coming from practically every sphere of life were bombarding my sleep patterns. On several occasions, my chest gathered and receded with palpitations I felt unable to control. My mind an endless scrolling action of irrational fears. One morning, I had twenty minutes before I was supposed to teach a class, but I was frozen. I stumbled into my coworker’s office. I uncovered the state of my mind, and she lovingly brought me back to my senses. This is a keyboard that you can touch. That’s a picture of a silly dog on the wall. This is the smell of coffee coming from my cup. Over and over until my breath returned to a normal pace. There are moments in life which however inescapable seem to be entirely unnecessary. Questions that rise and fall. If only we could unlock the answers to every question in the universe, perhaps we wouldn’t have to experience such pain. Such anxiety. I often wonder why life has to be a culmination of doubts that seem to be frustratingly useless if only some ancient truth could speak clarity, relieve us from our short-sightedness. Yesterday, I challenged one of the most gruesome hikes of my entire life. The trail was unclear, the signposts were spread out and hard to identify. The path was unnecessarily narrow, clustered with overgrown bush. I can’t count how many times my hiking partner and I were routed to the edge of cliffs. Every single part of the hike was painfully steep. Our ankles and knees screamed for relief. The most hilarious part of the equation was that the mountain we were hopelessly scaling - en route to our final destination - was literally called the Unnecessary Mountain. And yet, and yet. It was entirely necessary in order to get to the landscape beyond it. When we finally rose above the dimly lit forest, we were overcome with a profound sense of awe. I’ve rarely seen a better view. Sharp mountain peak after mountain peak surrounded us in a remarkable 360-degree visual spectacle. And most importantly, we were finally able to identify our end point. In the distance, the Lions were calling us. We could hear their roaring cliffs begging us to continue our treacherous hike, as we stood and admired their majesty from afar. Sometimes we’re sitting in the clouds, in our own indecision, in a lack of love and trust and hope. But we fail to realize that the hardest walks often lead to the greatest payoffs. There are certain seasons of life that seem unnecessarily layered in grief and loss. But it is never the full story. There is always a greater picture being painted. Emotions may rise and fall like cliffs and valleys, but I’ve been reminded this week of a quote, amidst what has felt like an unnecessary season of anxiety, and it brought me a profound sense of peace. So, here’s some wisdom from one of the wisest writers out there: “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” - C.S. Lewis
May we step out of our dysfunctional closets, and take a look at the palace that is being built out of our lives, through the cliffs and the valleys, through seasons of short-sightedness and clarity alike.