A week before the shelter in place order was issued in Santa Clara County, I took a weekend trip with my family to visit Yosemite Valley. For me, the highlight of every Yosemite trip is gazing up at the majestic crest of Half Dome, looming above the valley in all of it’s glory.
As we wandered back from Yosemite falls, with the dome in full-view, I asked my sons, “Who made that rock?” This being an all too familiar question from dad, they responded mechanically with the answer, “God”. As I thought about their response to me, I lifted my eyes up to consider the question myself. And as I looked and considered, memories came flooding back.
14 years earlier, I set my eyes on that very stone for the first time. I was by myself in my 1991 Toyota Camry, confused about who I was and why I existed, but full of granite-like resolve to climb that rock as an act of conquest (or so I thought). I made the climb, stood atop the mountain, and shouted as loud as I could at the valley below. I felt larger than the rock. Above the rock, like I was invincible.
A year later, my father would be diagnosed with stage four cancer. Nine months later he would pass away, shattering every notion I ever had that anything on earth was invincible. I wrote a song, trying to express these feelings in the only way I could. It ended like this…
The more you love, the less you think
and than the more you smoke and the more you drink
If all we’ll ever love will leave
then tell me what’s the point of grief
On this round world,
there ain’t no sides to choose
so we might as well get our restful sleep
before every song becomes the blues
In the darkest places of the drug-soaked wreckage that followed that event of my life, the Son of Man came to me and said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet he shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:25), and my entire life was changed. God Himself set me free from my addictions, released me from the prison of lies I had created, and delivered me from the bitterness and anger that had led to endless cycles of violence in my life.
And 14 years later, there I stood staring at that same great rock. 14 years later, I was now a pastor, an elder at West Hills Community church, married, and the father of four sons. 14 years later, I was completely changed, but Half Dome remained the same. 14 years later, it sank in to me that men don’t conquer rocks. We are conquered by the Rock of Ages. Everything about me had been transformed, yet there stood Half Dome, utterly unchanged. Why? Because Christ is Lord of all. Not me.
In the coming weeks and months, as we start to pick up the pieces that are left by the Corona-virus pandemic, it is important to remember that God has not changed. His faithfulness has not changed. And His covenant promises have not changed. The faithful God who has brought us this far will bring us safely home. And, in the middle of Yosemite Valley stands an immovable 8800 ft ebenezer of His grace, reminding us that, in the midst of chaos, God’s power keeps some things constant. Lift up your eyes to the mountains and ask— where does your help come from (Ps 121:1)? Your help comes from the One who keeps mountains in place. When your heart feels faint, let it lead you to the Rock that is higher than I (Ps 61:2).