Between Two Mountains

There’s a growing rage that’s more contagious and deadlier than the coronavirus.  

Alicia Garza, whose Facebook post gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement, recently wrote, “I have to be honest. I feel like I live in a constant state of rage, and I think a lot of black people do.” Recent protests prove that lots of young whites share this same rage.  An electric anger has ignited the American psyche.  Conservatives are irate.  Progressives are incensed.  Almost everyone is offended about something. Rage is pandemic.  It’s contagious.  And, it’s deadly.  

     I felt it on a recent airline flight.  Every seat was filled.  We were jammed shoulder-to-shoulder for almost three hours.  When we landed, a voice on the intercom said, “Please leave row by row, allowing for safe social distancing.”  Was this airline crew insane?  They had just crammed us together for hours, and now they were telling us to social distance on our way out?  I thought about the craziness of certain officials forbidding more than 50 people to worship in a church, while applauding thousands of protesters who marched en masse—many without masks. As I stepped into the aisle, I wanted to rip mine off and scream, “I’m mad as h—, and I’m not taking it anymore!”  It’s so easy to get enraged during these crazy times.  

     A lot of folks feel like me.  Maybe you do too.  Our nation has certainly had more than its share of traumas lately. They have produced lots of negative emotions: fear, dread, disappointment, cynicism, and rage.  How do we get out of our tailspin?  May I share a few things that have helped me?

Something an Old Preacher Said

     The aged parson was preaching about our ups and downs; the peaks and valleys of life.  He said that we all wish for a life made of mountaintop experiences.  Sadly, we more often go through valleys—seasons of difficulty, periods of darkness, times of defeat, dashed dreams disappointment, and disillusionment.  He pointed us to David’s words in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Sometimes the shadows in the valley scare us to death or cause us to despair of life.  

     The other day, as I recalled that old preacher’s sermon, I thought about the valley that our nation is going through now—and the negative emotions that are raging within so many of us.  Then I remembered how he pivoted in his sermon.  With a twinkle in his eye, and a smile that spread across his weather-beaten face, he raised up to his full 5’4” height and joyfully shouted, 

“But, I never confess that I am going through the valley. Instead, I remind myself that I’m just between mountains!  I’ve left one peak behind to go to a higher one ahead.  Brothers and sisters, my journey to heaven is all about going from glory to glory. And each mountaintop a little higher than the last!”

     St. Paul would agree with that country parson.  He wrote that, as we behold the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed from glory to glory. [2 Cor. 3:18]  Life for the Christian is a journey from peak to peak.  Valleys are temporary.  Their difficulties strengthen and prepare us for the next climb upward.  Like the sheep in the 23rd Psalm, when the shadows of the valley are filled with predators that seek to devour us, we realize that the Good Shepherd is present to protect us from all evil.  It is then that the fear and rage subside, and a peace that passes all understanding floods our souls. 

     Again, valleys are only temporary.  We are just between mountains.  My mother often reminded me, “Bobby, this too will pass.”  When things were good, she’d say, “Enjoy this season, but don’t get complacent.  It won’t last.”  During times of sorrow and frustration, she would say, “Don’t lose hope. This too will pass.” Life is full of seasons:  winter, spring, summer and fall.  What is happening in America today is only a season—a snapshot in time.  This too will pass.  There can be no peaks without valleys.  What goes up must come down.  

     The media makes its living in the valley.  It points us to the shadows and reminds us of predators, both real and imaginary, that are hiding there.  It heightens our fears and divides us against each other.  Politicians are even better at this blood sport than are the media.  They know the two most powerful motivators in the world are fear and greed.  They use both to divide and conquer.  In a finger-pointing culture that thrives on the blame game, we need to focus on the mountains ahead and learn to help each other get to the top.

     At Legacy Imperative, our aim is to accentuate the positive in an age of rage.  We want to break down the walls that divide and bridge the gulfs that separate.  We believe that grandparents can forge the future by connecting with their next generation kids and grandchildren.  We are just as convinced that the next generations are also on to some stuff that we have neglected—things like social justice, taking care of the creation that God has gifted to us, welcoming the aliens among us, and not allowing the love of money to blind us to the needs of the poor and oppressed.  These were all things that the Old Testament prophets, Jesus, and his Apostles called us to pursue.  But, just as our youth are calling for social justice, they can also learn from the old about the importance of social order.  Imagine what a world this could be if generations, races, genders, politicians, and people of various faith persuasions got together to hammer out solutions that could work for everyone, instead of hunkering down and shouting at each other?

      So, look ahead to the mountains in the distance.  As the old preacher said, “The valley is only a place between two mountains.”  It’s a snapshot in time.  Or, as my mother was fond of saying, “This too will pass.”  Along with that country parson, when the rage comes I will shout, “There’s a better day coming.  In fact, our best days are ahead of us—if we are willing to pay the price to accomplish the good!” 

Dr. Bob Petterson
Legacy Imperative