Before the 125 decides to go only in straight lines, it snakes its way through the Arapaho National Forest (this time only five times the size of Wales). Surrounded by mountains either side, it is another beautiful corner of Colorado.
I wouldn’t normally share things like this, particularly not on a public website, but I think it will make it into at least one or two sermons, so I may as well share it here first. With Paul, we should boast in our weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on us.
I have had my iPhone playing music on shuffle during my driving, and during the drive through Arapaho, a particular song came up, that has meant a lot to me over the last four and a half years (yes, it’s been that long now). Very few people know just how difficult that time has been for me, though more of you have seen glimpses of it. It has been immensely difficult to keep going day by day.
The song that came on is called Rise Up, by Third Day. As it came on, I listened to and sang the familiar words, and felt the weight of the last four years all rush up on me at once. But it didn’t end there. As I sang, reflected and—yes—sobbed away like a big baby, I realised that the main reason I love the mountains so much, is that their beauty, majesty, size and permanence all reflect God’s steadfast love for us—for me. His love is greater than mountain peaks, deeper and wider than the grandest canyon, more beautiful than a glacial mountain lake, more refreshing than the breeze rippling through the trees, more powerful than raging white water rapids.
And so the main reason for this trip is to visit the awesome mountains that so remind me of God’s love, of the way nothing can separate me (us) from that love, even me (us) getting things spectacularly wrong. That love is not some sort of crutch for weak people to lean on, but the strongest, oldest, most powerful, most permanent, most wonderful and beautiful thing in the world.
Here are the words to the song, and here is a video of the song itself. The words pretty much exactly sum up what has been going on inside me for the last four-and-a-half years, including the tearing, the undoing, the wrestling, the shame, the dragging to my knees, and more, but we won’t go into that—but most importantly of all, the learning about God’s love and power through my own weaknesses.
Well, I was there when you were torn apart
Now a piece of you is gone
Somehow you wish that you could only find
A little strength to carry on
You’ve tried so hard to make it on your own
That your heart has come undone
So I am here to prove that I alone
Have the power to overcome
Don’t let your heart be troubled
This world will never keep you down
It will never keep you down
So rise up, my friend
No, this will never be the end
So rise up, my friend
And live again
I didn’t want you to feel this way
It’s not what life was meant to be
And so for you, my friend, I’ll take your shame
You can give it all to me
‘Cause you’ve wrestled demons every day
And they’ve dragged you to your knees
But in your weakness you will learn to find
That I will always be your strength
In life or in deathRise Up, by Third Day
Through joy or regret
And all of the secret things you have done
No matter what comes, my friend
Nothing can keep you from the love of God
And Paul’s way of putting it:
But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.2 Corinthians 12.9 (NIV)