When my family went to California for a camping trip, we drove up the coast and down the center as we journeyed and saw new sights. One of our sights for a considerable amount of the journey was Mount Shasta. It stands high and clear over the landscape for miles.
We have mountains on the east coast. They are old and worn with age, and lie on the edges of our horizons, whispering of everything that they have seen. The Appalachians rise and fall throughout their imaginary boundaries of states, knowing that they stand as a more solid barrier for any who would try to cross.
The mountains of the west coast of our American continent are much more new. They stand as young teenagers, proud and jutting out, rising over the landscape around them. They also prevent the easy travel from one place to another, but they seem to have a practice of standing tall just because they can.
When you see to the mountains of the west coast for the first time, they take your breath away. They are new and impatient, at least compared to their older, softer, wiser cousins. They stand tall, daring anyone and everyone to come closer and see how much more foreboding and forbidding they can be.
Mount Shasta is one of these mountains. It is tall in the center of the north part of California, and even in June it has snow capping it top. My family went to see the mountain, and we got out and played in the snow in our shorts. We did not go to the top, but we were high enough on the mountain that we could feel the thinness of the air in our lungs as we tried to catch our breath.
As we drove down the mountain we stopped in to see one of the things that Dad had found in his research. The headwaters of the Sacramento River flow from Mount Shasta. And so we went to the find the source. As we arrived, there was a man there with gallon jugs filling them up to take home. He and his wife only drink water from the spring, not the city water. There were water bugs flitting around on the surface and flying in the air.
The water was gushing out. Cold, clear, rushing from the seam in the mountain. As my family and I knelt to cup the water with our hands, the air made cold from contact with the water met our bodies with a bracing coolness. We drank. Crisp from starlit nights, cold from snow meting on the peak, clear from filtering through the mountain itself, the water was pure. We drank from the source, and celebrated the moment.
Later, as I have told the story, I have said I drank from Sacramento River water. The River, especially close to Sacramento, is wide, lingering, muddy, carrying boats here and there along its banks. You wouldn’t want to drink it. It is too far from the source. It is dirty with the many miles it has travelled. It has flowed along its banks, gathering the stories from everyone and everything it passes. The river takes the impurities along its banks, and carries them downstream. It does its job at cleaning, rather than remaining clean itself.
At the source, however, the headwaters are clean. They gush out, seeming to come out of nowhere, and spring out of the mountain in a joyous celebration of freedom. This is the primary source of all the water that flows through the land, watering the crops, and providing for everything it touches.
The water is pure, clear, and refreshing. The image of the cold water gushing out of the spring reminds me of the Sprit of God. The Spirit of God rushes clean and clear out of the source, and refreshes all who touch it. Unlike the river, the Spirit does not collect the sediment of the land as it travels, but it does continue to supply a refreshing presence as it flows through us.
Like the man and his wife, we should be thirsty for the source of the Spirit. We can wait and let the river flow down to us, lazily running along within the banks. Yet the bracing, refreshing presence of God calls us to seek for the source. It is not always easy to find. But it is so much more rewarding when we have sought out the source, and find that we can wash ourselves in the ever new, always refreshing presence of God.
We are called to seek the source. We are called to journey up the mountain to find the seam in the rock where the presence of God gushes out into the world. We could stay there. We could remain in the spring of water where the clear word of God rushes out into the world. But we don’t stay there. Instead we go out, sharing the refreshing presence of God with those around us.
When time comes for renewal we are called back to the source of life and joy in the Spirit. the Source refreshes us, and calls us to drink from the waters daily. But we don’t dwell there, and let it get stagnant. We allow the living water to flow through us, and renew everything around us.
The Spirit calls us to refreshing new life in the source. Will you come and be renewed?