The car happily soaked in heat, and the heat was now happily pushing itself into my body. I felt sleepy and alive, driving through the hot summer afternoon, a drowsy-eyed excitement at the thought that I was an extension of the sun’s strength. What I wanted to tell you was this: there was construction work on the mountain, and the tractors and container trucks were numerous, scraping dirt and stone away, carving space for a safe road.
“Why couldn’t we drive it out?” the disciples asked Jesus regarding a demon. Jesus probably sighed and smiled slightly—they had been ministering together how long, now? and still these followers were constantly perplexed.
“Because,” their Lord replied patiently, “you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed”—usually between 1 and 2 millimeters in diameter, quite small—“you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
I brought our car to a stop. The windows rolled down with a muted whoosh sound. Roadwork can be time-consuming in the mountains, especially in cases like this, when the work is to move the mountain itself. So we waited at the front of a line of cars, the air around our metallic vehicles wobbling with heat.
Trucks clambered along the road carrying mounds of dirt and rock to a new ridge where they shrugged free their earthy freight, creating piles of loose warmth, a delightful home for worms and beetles.
My friend has learned a loneliness most poignant because she had seen it coming for months, and had felt it even before it hit. Then it hit, and she would seem to drift off in all directions with gentle music playing in the car. We tried to pull her back into herself with words, sharing thoughts about life philosophies and about dogs. Silence again fell; the tractors still shifted and shuffled in the dirt. I imagined my friend walking down the mountainside towards the dry riverbed, her feet barely pressing into the wild grasses. I imagined her lying down, as though she could be the water the cracked ground lacked.
I turned to look at her. I could see her beauty; I knew she was beautiful beneath, and I knew her hollowness. Yet I also knew she could indeed bring a riverbed to life, that she could give and give from that reservoir we sometimes find in ourselves when we think we have been fully emptied. A hidden reservoir, a beautiful and profound pool of love she must continually discover and gradually open.
After half an hour or so, there was room to drive forward, so we did. We further fought loneliness by reading out loud together, knowing every effort was of deep importance.
I have heard sermons that affirm that some mountains should be prayed into movement, while other mountains ought to be faced where they are, and climbed. But what is not often mentioned is how some mountains—the lonely ones, the invisible—require faith, yes, but also often require work. Notice how, when Jesus talks about faith to move a mountain, he says, “it will move.” I assume we agree mountains are not alive and do not have the wherewithal to, of their own will, obey orders—not in this world at least. The faith is not in the mountain’s ability. The faith is in God, a confirmation that we know he can move such large objects. So, “it will move” is God responding to our seemingly outrageous request.
Yet God’s service to us is not one of a father spoiling his children, but one of a father helping his children grow and become more like him. Therefore, he often will help us do some of the mountain moving. He gives us work to do, and moves whatever stones we somehow miss or boulders we do not have strength to carry. The results of our faith to move mountains can be so awe-inspiring that we ourselves are also moved, but in a different way. Mountains that move instantaneously might be shocking, wowing, producing a sort of magic-trick effect—but it is through the mountains that take time and dedicated work that the work becomes part of our experience, and we not only see that the mountain has moved, but we forever feel in our bones and muscles the power of that fact.
My friend again lifted her voice into conversation. I heard the worry in it, but she was determined to take another shovelful of granite away from the mountain.
[Biblical quote taken from Matthew 17:20, NIV]