Walking in the Dales: Spiritual Lessons

A church member and I walked up onto Barden Fell this week to freshen our lungs, stretch our legs and revive our spirits. Walks often provide me with illustrations of the Christian life; I see much and enjoy the time to contemplate them, instead of zooming past in a motor-propelled vehicle. Climbing up to the large cross over Rylstone was tough going. I have become unfit this year and I taken some trouble these past months widening my girth, so the ascent was harder than usual. A late spring snow was blowing horizontally by a chill wind as though trying to divert our destination. It made me wonder how many ‘spiritual’ people reject or neglect the cross of Calvary. They like Jesus’ moral teachings and the church’s sense of community, but to the place of atonement they will not go. The views they enjoy, the exercise they appreciate, but going to Calvary with its blood, wrath, humility and repentance, they will not deign.

Barden Moor is a bleak place: brown and rocky, windswept and barren. Yet there is a wonderful beauty here, a sense of grandeur. It is often in rough pasture that our Christian pilgrimages are the most blessed. Christ’s strength was ‘made perfect’ when Paul was at his weakest; while taunted by the unnamed messenger of Satan, Paul was receiving more of God’s grace to compensate. Barren, harsh and rocky ground is often the most fruitful when the believer passes through.

The wind was bitter and the snow biting. Yet the place where we found the most peace and quiet was, unexpectedly, the highest point of the entire walk- the front of the Cracoe obelisk. The monument sheltered us from the icy wind so well, that we were startled by it when we finished our lunch and moved to continue on the path. The more we Christians grow in grace and mature spiritually, the more peaceful and sheltered we are. This is not because the winds blow any less or the snow flakes become warmer, but because Christ our shield is held more closely. The higher up we go, the less bothered we are by the inclement conditions of this weary life.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121