Driving Up South

We live on the northern side of the capital, literally on the last street before you find yourself outside city limits. Because of the fact that a mountain range rests just south of the city, here to drive south is to drive up since you’re literally increasing your elevation the more south you go.

And they’re not just hills, those mountains to the south. They’re monsters. They’re omnipresent sentinels watching you wherever you might set foot in the city. There are very few places where you can’t see them. All you have to do is look up and south.

Every time we head into town, it’s up south we go, in the direction of the mountains. Despite the fact that they’re always there, it’s very easy to forget about them. One, you just get used to them. Two, there’s so much happening on the roads. You take your eyes off what’s right in front of you at your own risk. Pedestrians often compete for space on already crowded roads. Potholes lie in wait hoping to gobble up unsuspecting cars. Mini-buses cut you off and then slam on their breaks to pick up passengers on the side of the road. (Don’t even get me started on taxis and trolley-buses.) People honk at you if you don’t start pulling out into the intersection before the light turns green. Cars ride your rear for blocks, flashing their lights at you, and then proceed to pull into oncoming traffic to pass, honking all the way and narrowly missing other drivers. (Yes, I honk back.)

Trees block your view. Buildings block your view. Big trucks and buses block your view.

And not only does the traffic arrest your attention, there’s the reality of the city passing you by as you drive. It’s easy to forget the mountains in light of the seemingly unending rows of ramshackle houses and dilapidated buildings. Some houses are still being built, seemingly a brick at a time, just like they were four years ago when we arrived. There are people selling all sorts of things along the side of the road.

Yet there they stand. Those mountains. If you’d only look up.

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Of course, sometimes fog descends and you can’t see them. Perhaps those are the worst drives. What’s left to lift your spirits then? Not the taxi drivers, let me tell you.

In light of the magnificent mountains in whose shadow we live every day of our lives, I often find myself thinking of Psalm 121:1-2: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

When I let those mountains do their job, they serve as a penetrating reminder of the fact that the very one who fashioned those magnificent, snow-topped peaks, the one who’s bigger than they are, the one who’s stronger than they are, the one who’s less movable than even they—that one, great, omnipotent God is standing, just behind his handiwork, extending his hand toward me.

“I’m right here,” he whispers from the heights. “I’ll help you.”

If I lived every moment convinced to my core that the Maker of those mountains stood on my side, how much differently would I live!

Yes, the drive into town isn’t—shall we say—inspiring. Judging merely from the traffic and scenery—the drivers, the unnecessary recklessness, the rundown cars on the road, the shabby houses, the state of the roads—you might decide to turn around and go back home.

And then you look up and see them. They lift you. Of course, they’re beautiful in their own right, but you know Psalm 121. And suddenly you think, “Well, then, if you’ll help me….”

The meeting you’re going to will not be your demise. The discomfort of the situation into which you’re heading full speed will not undo you. You won’t reach your workplace alone. You won’t face whatever awaits you when you finally put your car in park all by yourself.

Why? Those unceasing hills. That’s why. The Maker of those hills is with you.

So whatever direction you’re going, whether it’s up south or down north or east or west or otherwise, don’t forget the mountains, even when you lose sight of them. It might just change the rest of your drive. In fact, it might just change everything.

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