“Living things carry an imprint of their environment recorded in isotopes.” ~Jason Moon
I love high places.
I’ve been visiting a few favorites this past week, and also paying calls to some I have not seen in almost a decade.
On the weekend, while hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail my son and I did in 2010 and knocking off some peaks on The Grid, I binge-listened to a podcast a dear friend suggested.
Bear Brook by Jason Moon chronicles the mystery of four murder victims discovered in New Hampshire’s Bear Brook State Park beginning in 1985, their eventual identification, and the capture of the serial killer responsible for their deaths.
One of the ways they uncovered the identities of the victims, who were (sorry about this) cut to pieces and shoved into barrels was by examining the isotopes found in their bones.
Environmental isotopes are naturally occurring atoms that carry the signature of the geographic region where they are found, and they make their way into rocks, plants, animals, and even us, revealing our history with a mark that is as distinct as a fingerprint.
Map by Sarah Plourde
While I listened and walked, walked and listened, I marveled at the complexity of isotopes and the unique map God creates for all of lives.
What is in our bones?
God’s vastness is so incomprehensible, and his thoughts and ways so much higher than ours.
We are so small.
The prophet Isaiah once observed: He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. (Isaiah 40:22)
Jesus, too, was drawn to high places. He frequently slipped away to a mountaintop to pray and spend time with His daddy. I’m sure they had a lot to talk about: bumbling disciples, plotting pharisees, the hurting, the sick, and the dead.
Jesus needed this time to strengthen Himself, gather courage for the way ahead, listen to His father’s voice.
Things always seem so much better up there.
Perhaps they even discussed Jesus’s answer to an expert in the law who once tested Him with this question: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus didn’t hesitate: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
So where do we go to find the map of own lives?
At times, the way seems so obvious, so well-defined.
Other times, we come to a crossroad and freeze, hardly knowing which way to turn.
It’s murky. Unclear.
We stumble and curse, wishing there were some way to control the swirling chaos and the deep ache inside of us like an imprint in our bones.
Isaiah reminds us that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Spending time like Jesus did, up high, with our heavenly Daddy gives us a sense of proportion. While there, we also percolate in the immutable character of God, absorbing His most perfect isotope: love.
When we are confident of the Father’s relentless, passionate love for us, things down here seem less awful. We find ways to cope, to fight, to overcome.
It allows us to weigh Paul’s words against our own experience and see the wisdom in his testimony: for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Whether or not we can see the way, we can be confident that God sees. He is the ultimate map-maker.
And that is more than enough for me.