Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold;
for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.
Today’s psalm, parts of which are used as a canticle for Compline, always creates a vivid image for me as I recite the words. “My crag and my stronghold” brings to mind pictures of Mt. Everest, a cold and forbidding place that I would never want to be up close and personal.
To think of this image as I recite words spoken to God gives me pause for contemplation. Should my mind picture something so cold, so terrifying and so personally forbidding as I pray?
Climbing up the side of a huge mountain or even a hill is not something that is on my list of things to do. When I read of people climbing Mt. Everest, my first thought is that they either have a desire to tempt death or they are just nuts. Yet what is this God-desire but a mountain? We stare in awesome wonder at a creation that is beyond our imagining; beyond our earthly ability to comprehend. We crave to know it, yearn to feel it, desire to be within it as a part of it. We want to be one with it.
When I think of mountain climbing in that respect, I understand the desire to “conquer” the mountain – the quest that drives a desire so overwhelming that nothing else matters. God-desire is like that. I cringe at the thought that I might wish to “conquer” God…and truly, I don’t believe that I do want that. What would be the benefit? But I can visualize standing as a part of the God-One, wind blowing through my hair and open fingers as I rejoice at the completeness of the moment. To feel that joy racing through every fiber of my being, knowing that I am no longer me alone but God-joined…part and parcel of the One and only One…climbing to the top of that mountain must feel something like that.
As I attempt to hold fast to this “crag” I know that I cling tightly to it if for no other reason than horror that I might fall…or fail. The thing that frightens me easily becomes the thing that holds me fast. But my panic at clinging to the “stronghold” could simply freeze me into a non-action which might result in my dying. It is then, at the moment of that paralyzing fear, that I know I have to depend fully upon that “strong rock” and for that very sake let it lead me and guide me.
It is not for my sake that I do this but for the sake of that Holy name, that I might allow it to lead me and guide me into that Oneness, a relationship that I am called into. Just as a mountain climber stands at the foot of that mountain, staring up in wonder and love, knowing full well that she will go, regardless, so I stand at the foot of this God-thing knowing that it wants me as much as I want it. Regardless of the sacrifice, understanding the fear that lies ahead, it calls to me.
And I will follow.