Imagine, you are walking in a nearby field at the base of a mountain. You marvel at the height of the mountain. Each day, you feel invited to draw closer to the mountain. One day, you begin to walk and realize you are ascending up the mountain. As you continue the journey, you come across steep rocks in the path and you think to yourself, there is no way I can go any further. I’ll have to turn back and head back to the field. As you begin to turn around, you feel something tugging at you but you don’t see anything there. You pause for a second and then begin to move downward and then you notice someone approaching you. He is carrying a shepherds staff. You are a little startled. You know that you didn’t see anyone a second ago and now here is a person, a shepherd with no sheep in site. As he draws nearer, you begin to feel something sweep over you, strength and courage. He stands beside you and looks at the path ahead. He nods in agreement on how steep the rocks look and he tells you give it a shot that he is right there beside you. You begin to climb and what seemed impossible, now seems doable. You are astonished. Once you have reached the other side of the rocks, you look back and no longer see the shepherd. You tell yourself, I thought he would be right beside me. It looks like he left. Before persisting onward, you notice 3 small rocks that look unusual. You take the 3 rocks and stack them at the location you have just conquered over the steep rocks.
Then, you continue to pursue the path laid before you. As you proceed up the mountain, you reach a place that has two paths. One of the paths looks easy and wider than the other. The more narrow path appears to be steeper, has very rugged terrain, and gives you a sense that you could fall below with just the wrong footing. You stop and analyze both paths, thinking of all the consequences that could possible happen on either path. As you begin to walk towards the path that appears wider and easier, a boulder falls and blocks the path. You again assess the situation and with fear, you want to turn around and return back to the field. Just then, you see the shepherd again. He doesn’t say a word as he stands beside you. You then begin to journey on the narrow path. You notice this time he is behind you as your foot slips and dust and rocks fall below. Your heart is beating very fast with fear of falling. Suddenly a calmness sweeps over you and you feel strengthened to move forward ascending the mountain. As the narrow path comes to an end and it opens up again, you notice the shepherd is no longer behind you and there are 3 small stones before you. You stack these stones as you did before and press on.
You are beginning to feel hungry and thirsty. Just then you notice a spring and some wild berries. You stop to eat and drink from the spring. You sit a while to rest as you delight in the view along the bank of the spring. There are vibrant, colorful flowers and greenery that you have never seen before. It looks like a painting hung in an art gallery. Just as you are about to get up and restart the journey, the clouds roll in and a storm begins to cover the sky. No place to run and no place to hide, you wonder what you are going to do as the rain begins to pour. A storm on a mountain can’t be a good thing. As the lightening begins to strike, towards the eastern side of the path, you notice the shepherd and what appears to look like a small crevice, like a cave that could provide shelter from the storm. He signals for you to join him. You sit in this small space for shelter. Your clothes are wet and you begin to shiver. You feel an embrace and realize the shepherd is holding you and you begin to feel warm and comforted.
Once the storm has passed, you look around and the shepherd is gone yet again and you see 3 small stones again and begin to ponder. Each instance you began to feel afraid, resistant, weak, or faced with adversity along this path, you saw this shepherd and found 3 small stones. Who could this be? And why 3 small stones?
You walk further up the mountain and as you ascend, you can sense a newness, a freshness in the air. Your shoulders seem lighter, your mind feels clearer and you sense freedom. You feel there are no longer things binding you to the field, to the world. You spin around with your hands in the air, taking in this new found freedom, resting in it.
At that moment, you realize that each time you were afraid, you met adversity, weakness, and resistance, the shepherd was guarding you, his sheep. When you were afraid to go on when you thought you couldn’t take on the task at hand, he helped you and showed you it was possible with his help. When you were faced with 2 directions to discern in life, a difficult path and easy one, he guided your decision and walked with you along the difficult path. When you were hungry and thirsty, he provided your nourishment. When the storms covered your life, he gave you shelter in his arms, comforting you until it blew over. He was guiding you and as you pushed pass each of these instances you stacked remembrance stones to signify the areas in your life where you were faced with challenges and Jesus carried you, guided you, nourished you, comforted you, gave you shelter. At the top of this mountain you just ascended, you are rejoicing in the freedom that he has given you through your trust in his will in your life as you prepare for eternity in his glory.
Can you feel the freedom? If not, have you let go of your own will and fears and allowed him to carry you, nourish you, and guide you as you ascend to holiness, to sainthood?