> Spirituality > Personal Growth

The View from the Mountain

June 15, 2016 | by Devorah Talia Gordon

My rendezvous with God at the top of Runyon Canyon before sunrise.

When my friend asked me to hike Runyon Canyon with her before carpool, I thought she was nuts.

“You mean, like, at sunrise?”

She shrugged. “It’s gorgeous. And quiet. Just try it,” she said. “You’ll see what I mean. I’ll pick you up at 5:50.”

It had been years since I’d been to Runyon, a local hike with a steep climb and majestic views of LA. I’d come on Sunday mornings when I was single. I’d hike up the steep stairs and practically jog back down, along with the dozens of other walkers with their dogs, enjoying the always-beautiful LA weather.

Now, things were a bit different. I had a husband, a brood of kids, and a whole lot of responsibilities.

But my friend said we should leave it all behind, just for a bit, and hike up the mountain. After just one morning, I was hooked.

Our Ascent

We start out well before the morning crowd. Here and there a hiker appears out of the semi-dark; we exchange good mornings with the elderly Russian lady, hands clasped behind her back, making her steady ascent.

Our muscles slowly warm up, just as our conversation proceeds gradually – first about the best place to buy paper goods, the ‘shows’ our second-grade girls insist on making every Sunday, a new supper recipe. As we ascend, the city falls into the backdrop. The silhouetted buildings look like nothing more than flimsy construction paper formations taped up on a burnt orange wall.

Then our talk shifts to loftier matters, like our aging parents, belief in ourselves after we’ve gotten angry with our kids again, the challenges of raising teens. We talk about our personal and professional goals. As good friends, we give each other encouragement and some advice, but mostly empathy.

At the top of the mountain, we pause at the same spot to stretch. We gaze at the sparkling city lights and the lightening, soft blue sky, so clear that we can see all the way from downtown LA to the Pacific Ocean. The remaining stars still twinkle and even the moon glows, yet the new day beckons. I remember learning that God named each and every star in the universe (and there are billions!) and that each has a specific purpose.

So too, with me, I think. He is looking out for me at every moment, and each of my struggles is meaningful, even if I can’t understand how. Because “down the mountain,” in the nitty-gritty details of life, it’s hard to get perspective. It’s easy to be anxious and worried.

But in these sunrise moments, I feel just the tiniest bit of what I imagine God might experience all the time.

At every moment, God sees the whole picture of every single thing in the universe. He has the Ultimate Perspective. When I attempt to look at the world with God’s perspective, I can’t be so worried. My concerns – even the ones that keep me up at night – fade in the face of the vastness of God’s Reality. His reality is that there is a plan and purpose for everything. He sees why things need to happen, and how those things will, in the end, be good. And even now, in actuality, are good.

Even for little me.

Reluctantly, we take slow steps away from the view and start back down the mountain. But my steps are lighter now, my breath comes easier. The people heading up are fully sunlit, chatting as dogs scamper by their feet.

It’s not until late morning that I hear the news: Runyon Canyon is closing for four months. They need to fix the old water pipes and will need to repave the canyon. At first, the news doesn’t faze me. But as the day goes on, reality hits me.

The closing of the canyon will take away something much more than my exercise. There’s no other hike nearby that parallels Runyon’s steep climb and vast perspective. And the perspective Runyon gives me.

For the next few months, I will need to find the ‘view from the mountain’ elsewhere.

I don’t have to look far. Right when I open my prayer book, I read Adon Olam, which means “Master of the World.” The first formal prayer Jews say each morning describes God’s omnipotence, but is also about His very personal relationship with each of His creations. As we say in the prayer, “He is my God.” (Rav Schwab on Prayer, p.4-5).

I can connect to God through the pages of my prayer book, or while driving carpool, just as much as I can experience Him on top of the mountain.

It’s all perspective. And a good pair of hiking shoes doesn’t hurt.


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