I kept my eyes glued to the ground, where I placed one foot in front of the other as I climbed the rocky staircase. I noticed how each stone was rugged and natural, yet strategically placed in an organized fashion, and I presumed that someone took quite a bit of time to create this pathway staircase.
I intentionally refused to look up, partly because I might fall on my face if my eyes left the ground, but also mainly because I didn’t want to see how high I was. Not yet. Not until I got to the top.
My heart was pounding in my ears and I was trying not to breathe as hard as my lungs would have liked, but I did not stop even once until I reached the summit.
Then I lifted my eyes. The landscape spread out below me like a soft green wrinkled blanket. The different fields – corn, millet, soy, and cotton – created the patchwork on this quilt that was hemmed in by rolling hills on all sides. Dirt roads and winding footpaths formed the stitches. The clouds made moving shadows on the ground, creating even more shades of green if that is even possible. Every once in a while the sun broke through and I closed my eyes and let it warm my face. With eyes closed, I could hear someone hammering and women chattering in the valley below, muffled by the sound of wind rustling the tall grass nearby on the mountains edge.
But I wasn’t to the highest point yet. I looked right, and there was the larger than life statue of Jesus with his arms spread wide, looking over the valley. I think it was probably supposed to model that famous one in Brazil, although it’s significantly smaller. From afar, he just looks like a white cross on the top of a mountain, but when you get closer, you actually see that he’s a person. Kind of like in real life. At first, all that his name stirs up in us is an image of a white cross. It’s when we get closer that we find out what an amazing person he is.
The highest I could climb brought me right to his gigantic feet. I sat down between them.
I’m normally not spiritually inclined to statues like this one. I just don’t picture Jesus that way. Instead of a gaudy image with piercing eyes all alone on the top of a mountain looking down on everyone, I think he might look more like the ordinary woman that sells you tomatoes in market or the guy cleaning bikes on the street corner who always makes everyone smile. I think he’d be among the people, not looking down over them. I think he’d be dressed in African pagne instead of a white robe. I do think his arms would be stretched open wide, but probably to tickle children and carry sacks of rice for his family, to wave to his neighbors, and to embrace people who are hurting. Instead of being larger than life, he would be so humble that you might not even recognize him if you were looking for a religious figure instead of just a friend.
As I soaked in the view of the beautiful African countryside in the shade of the Jesus statue, one of the missionaries I was with made a comment about having a mountaintop experience with Jesus, and we all laughed. I leaned my head back again Jesus’s legs and suddenly felt like a small child, clinging to the legs of her father.
That’s where a child feels most safe when the environment or circumstances threaten her – clinging to the pant legs of her father, at just the right height where the father can reach down and touch her head with his comforting hand.
I am so impressed by my daddy. When I was little, I just knew he was so smart because he could fix anything and so strong because he could pick me up and throw me on the bed. Then just last year, when I toured his new workplace with him and saw the engineering lab where he works, I was just struck again with how smart he is. The funny thing is, he just thinks he is an ordinary guy working an ordinary job, but to me he is like a scientist in a lab who can take apart anything and put it back together, or who designs and creates new products, and who solves any problem that people bring to him. He thinks I overrate him, but to me, he is still the smartest, coolest, strongest man in the world. Even more so now because I see how he loves my mom and takes care of his family. How he leads and serves and studies and prays. He’s definitely not as ordinary as he thinks; he’s my hero.
Here, sitting at the feet of Jesus, I was swept away with a similar awe and amazement, only multiplied by ten thousand. Just the thought of him as my father made me fall in absolute wonder at how great he is. And just the thought of resting at his feet gave me the deepest peace and security in the world. The way I feel about my dad here on earth is only a shadow (yet a very beautiful one) of how I feel about my Father in heaven, who truly is a perfect Father. And he is not in the slightest bit ordinary, but actually the wisest, strongest, kindest, most loving Father there ever was, is, and will be.
The great thing is that you don’t have to climb to a mountain or find a picturesque religious statue to sit at his feet. You are more likely to find him in a quiet place, often when you are still and alone. You can find him in the open pages of his Word or in the prayer closet. It’s in the secret places. It’s in the normal, everyday spaces of washing dishes and driving home. It’s through laughter or through tears. It’s like when a child clings to the legs of her father whenever she senses danger, decision, or delight. He’s there, not as a stone statue, but as a real person. A friend. A good Father.
We can lean back against him and breathe and watch the beauty of what he is creating for us and in us unfold before our eyes.
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