The Summit and the Valley
Many years ago, some friends and I decided to climb one of the “High Peaks” in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. It is a wild and beautiful place with rocky mountains rising above lakes and ponds whose waters reflect the majestic images of the surrounding region.
In the waning hours of a late autumn afternoon, we decided to cross the lake to climb to the summit of Haystack before night closed in on us. Confidently, we ascended quickly, and in a few hours, we reached the summit as the sun was declining toward the horizon.
Though we knew that we would have only a short time on top, the view of the surrounding mountains overcame our better judgment, and we stayed to enjoy the inspiring beauty of the world spreading out before us on every side. The air was so clear it felt as if we could reach across the divide and touch the rounded summit of Mt. Marcy.
But too soon the sun fell below the horizon, painting the languid clouds shades of orange and red. We held out until the last minute and then began the race down the trail to the lake and the cabin on the opposite shore.
There is no darkness equal to the darkness of the woods after night fall. And so as we descended from the grayness of twilight into the pitch black of night, we became so lost that we could not find the shore of the lake, not to mention the boat we had used in the afternoon. We wandered aimlessly for hours and eventually came upon the lake and later the boat that had been patiently waiting for our return
Our mistake had been our desire to hold onto the passing glory of the sunset at the summit. The valley below does not hold the same sense of eternal promise as a sunset in the mountains or on the coast. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes that God “has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart….” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
For those brief moments on the summit of Haystack, the beauty of the surrounding world was visible to us. The valley could wait. “For (God’s) invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:20) Staying on the top cost us, but it was worth the price.
—Eric Kampmann, Signposts