Epiphany Knees

Psalm 40:1-3

Expectans, expectavi

1 I waited patiently upon the LORD; he stooped to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;
he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust in the LORD.

Several years ago, my husband and I along with our dog Ace and some friends planned a trip to Fredericksburg, Texas. If you are from central Texas, you are familiar with the popular German community known for its quaint bed and breakfasts, herb gardens, pastries, fine dining, wine tastings, and a multitude of diverse shops selling everything from peaches to designer hats and custom furniture. But none of those were on our agenda for that weekend. We were going to Fredericksburg to climb Enchanted Rock.

Enchanted Rock is a unique geological structure; a massive pink granite dome rising more than 1800 feet above sea level, looking more like it came from Mars than from central Texas. It has a history of magic and mysticism going back to the Tonkawa Indians who originally populated the area and considered the monolith a groaning god with fiery eyes in the night. Today, it remains a spiritual place, with an athletic challenge. People of faith make pilgrimage to the Rock for prayer and meditation. Others come to exercise their athleticism, climbing the mountain to be rewarded with its magnificent views.

Our small group looked forward to the challenge of the Rock and the opportunity for prayer and meditation atop the bald giant. We arrived in Fredericksburg the evening before our climb, ate a good meal, and went to bed early to be well rested for the next day’s adventure. We awoke early to discover the weather had a surprise for us. Instead of the usual central Texas crisp autumn mornings, sunny, clear, and cool, the weather had turned dreary gray, with rain, fog, drizzle and mist. We were not to be deterred. We left our B and B, and drove the slick roads to the Park. Once there, we walked to the base of the Rock where we realized just how challenging the bald giant would prove. Again, we were not deterred. Earlier pilgrims had already arrived before us and we could see them quietly ascending the rock into the fog above. If they could do it, so could we, right? We started up the gentle slope. After a while, we stopped for a brief rest at a relatively level space before the next steeper incline. Then, it happened!

I had an epiphany! I knew in that split second with no real thought or study or preparation, that my knees were not going to manage the Rock safely! I’d already had one knee surgery from a running fall on asphalt; I wasn’t willing to find out what a fall on granite would do to the other one! So, I told my husband to go on without me; and Ace and I hiked back down to the safe flat foothills below. We explored the autumn landscape of grasses and streams. We enjoyed the warm sun as the day turned beautiful. We listened to the sounds of laughter of young families and children playing in the distance and the silence of the spaces around us. It was a mellow special time.

That happened years ago, but when I read David’s words in the scripture today, the memories flooded back. “He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.” Fortunately, I did not fall into the desolate pit in which David found himself, perplexed and clueless in the dark. If I were to make a guess, I would guess David’s pit was one of grief and guilt. David was a powerful man of God with many victories. For every victory though, David suffered defeat: watching the decline of his king’s mental health and ultimately, Saul’s death on the battlefield, David’s own murderous sins, his failures as a father, and the deaths of loved ones, betrayals, mutinous children, on and on.

Maybe David’s epiphany in that pit was his own helplessness to undo the painful carnage of his mistakes. When he figured out that all the scratching, crawling, and clawing attempts to climb out of his guilt were ineffectual, he turned to the Lord who would know where he was, who would stoop down to hear his distress. And, God did exactly that. He found the pit in which David languished; He picked him up and set his feet on a high cliff where his footing was sure, where he would not fall again. He would give David a new song, an epiphany song that would lift the hearts of all who would hear, a song that would fill them with awe.

It is easy to identify with David, he was so human! Like David, we find ourselves at different times in life mired in a dark pit. Maybe it’s a pit of grief and guilt like David’s; or pain; or despair; or the losses that come in the second half of life as careers end, loved ones die, and children move away; as illness, injuries, wear and tear weaken our knees and dim our vision. And after we do all that we can to cope with these changes, we find ourselves like David waiting patiently for God to do his work of epiphany. We wait for his message that will lift us out of the pit of our own making and place us solidly on high ground to see life in a different way, to sing a new song of awe. Our epiphany task is waiting with expectation, patience, and an open mind so as not to miss what God may be saying to us.

I never made it to the top of Enchanted Rock that week so I have yet to experience sure footing on a high cliff or a magnificent view. I heard God’s message though: those knees of mine that once did anything I demanded, are now made for walking, that’s it. With that insight, I likely avoided a painful fall; and that may have been all that God wanted to say. But, if I treat that moment as an epiphany moment with expectation, patience, and an open mind, there may be more to the message.

Maybe God was telling me that high heady spaces are not for me. Maybe he wants me in low lands surrounded by life, people, animals, tall grasses and low hanging mesquite. Maybe he wants me to explore the back spaces, wading across streams of tears, crawling over downed trees and dreams, listening to the songs of birds and children and old people. Maybe he wants me to take his message into those places and speak the language of rustling streams and brush, birds and breezes. Maybe he wants me to take time to rest, to take in the scents of his creation, and feel the air on my skin. I just don’t know yet. So I will do my part in this Epiphany time. I will trust that God is near, willing to stoop low to hear my cry. And I will remain patient, expectant, and wait . .