Gwen and I had occasion to be in Seattle recently – grandparent trip with Madelyn the Wonder Child – and I was reminded of an evocative thing that Seattleites say.
The city sits in the giant shadow of Mount Rainier, at 14,417 feet the tallest mountain in Washington and in the Cascade Range. It’s huge – and more often than not, it’s invisible. That’s because Seattle’s infamous cloudiness/fogginess/raininess masks the view of the mountain on most days. You live in the presence of a giant volcano, and most of the time you’d never know it.
But sometimes the weather clears and Mount Rainier makes its presence known. And Seattleites say this: “The mountain is out.”
Which got me thinking about the sometimes maddening invisibility of the divine in our lives. “The only one who has seen the Father is the one who has come from him. No one else has ever seen the Father,” says the Gospel of John (6:46, Contemporary English Version). And so we live out a faith that exposes us to varying degrees of certainty that God exists, that God is there, that God is watching over us. It can be easy to lose sight of that truth when we don’t have God, well, in sight.
But as with the Seattleites, sometimes the fog of unknowing clears and God makes Godself known in full glory. That can look like the majesty of some evocative scene from nature; it can come as a quiet assurance and peace when we most need those things; it can come as an aha moment in scripture or in art or in music.
An old name for God is El Shaddai, which can be translated as God of the Mountains. Mountains – enormous, immovable, always there. If only, we pray, we might see them.