Northern Iraq is a place of mountains. From our front balcony in Ranya we looked across at the snow covered mountains of Iran. At the back of our apartment, beyond the mosque, were the rugged Kewa-Rash or “black mountains” famous in our region. Beyond those mountains were more mountains. We never tired of looking out over the mountains and seeing more and more mountains. As far as the eye could see, there were mountains.
Looking at those mountains and climbing them are two different things. They are beautiful to look at, but they are not easy to climb.
We have just begun settling after mountains of transition. As I have journeyed through this and lacked the energy to express publicly what I have felt, it has helped to look back at some of what I’ve written in the past. The words of God to the Israelites urging them to “Remember” are not lost on me. In our journeys, God calls on all of us to remember. Remember what came before, remember what God has done. Remember and Rest.
So today I am remembering and resting, trying to take in what I wrote a year and a half ago and follow my own advice.
I’m on a balcony in South Carolina looking across at a lake and then mountains. There are mountains, and then more mountains, and beyond that, there are even more mountains.
My view is stunning and soul-quieting; soul-quieting during a time where my soul deeply needs rest and my heart is beginning to feel the deep loneliness of transition. I feel it most when I wake up. A feeling of disorientation surrounds me and I am lost. It’s as though something or someone has died. I lie quiet for a moment, breathing through the panic. And then, it’s gone. I sigh and hold out my hands, the Jesus Prayer on my lips.
A Haitian proverb says “Deye mon, gen mon” – “beyond mountains, there are mountains.” This afternoon, as I quiet my soul and look out towards the horizon, I realize that transition is like this. One mountain after another to be climbed and conquered, or at least climbed. Mountains of change and mountains of moving; mountains of decisions; mountains of goodbyes and ‘see you laters’; mountains of letting go of what I hold so tightly and don’t even realize. Mountains of explaining and re-explaining; of prayers and laying all at the mercy of God.
And that mountain of loneliness? For me, this is the biggest mountain of all. There are both universal and uniquely individual components to this loneliness. I am humbled as I recognize those attributes. I realize that many in our world understand these feelings, yet they are still deeply personal, still difficult to articulate.
In a recent piece on “Going Home“, Tanya Crossman ends with these words:
“Right now the best I can manage most days is just getting by. Take small steps toward building a life here. Celebrate tiny achievements. Look for little moments that encourage me, that tell me it’s going to work out and one day I’m going to find my feet here, in this new life. Transition is hard. It’s exhausting. But it’s also worth it.”
It’s going to work out.
One day I’m going to find my feet here, in this new life.
Yes, beyond the mountains are more mountains. Taken all together, the view may be beautiful, but the steps are overwhelming. But taken one by one, reaching out to others in the journey, I just might make it.
What about you?