One of the activities that is unique to most of us at Summit Semester is solitude time. Once a week, every student goes to their own special place by themselves and spends an hour and a half with God. It is mandatory, which is a very good thing considering many of us would probably opt out of it in favor of doing the reading that is always piling up. Solitude time has become one of my lifelines. It is a time I do not have to think about the seemingly never-ending books I have to read and the tests I have to study for, and can focus instead on reflecting on what I have learned and on processing thoughts that are floating around in my head from the previous week. I have decided to share an edited excerpt from my journal that I wrote during one of my solitude times.
“From my place of solitude, there is much to see. I am sitting on the side of a hill located between Semester’s Lodge (where we eat our meals) and the sport’s field. I am surrounded by trees. There is a drop off on my left just a few feet from me. Above and behind me, the slope eventually goes up to a ridgeline with a spectacular view of mountains and valleys. I am in a little clearing where a small rock juts out of the hillside and keeps me from slipping back down the hill. In front of me and below, the hill slopes down to meet Semester’s driveway. Straight ahead of me, through some trees, I see layers of hills—big hills. Hills that might be considered small mountains in the flatlands of Ohio (which is where I dwell). There are about five layers of hills in front of me, speckled with trees, undergrowth, and brush. Beyond them is a mountain. My mountain. I have officially claimed it. It is probably a little small compared to most mountains. There is no snow on it. It is aptly named Square Top. Square Top slopes up steadily, with walls of rock, some exposed and some covered in trees. Suddenly, the rock wall changes color and goes straight up on all sides. It almost looks as if a big slab of red rock was placed on top of a very large grey rocky hill. I would dearly love to climb Square Top one day, but I hear getting to the very top is impossible without climbing gear because of its vertical walls. Still…where there is a will there is a way…so I’ve got a shot.
Anyways, looking ahead of me and a little to my right, just perfectly visible through the trees, on a tall hill, rising from the shrubbery, stands a cross. Apparently, Summit Semester students of a previous year built it there. The cross is standing at the top of a hill with nothing but sky and clouds behind it. This place, here on the side of a steep hill, surrounded by trees, a mountain to my left and a cross to my right—this is my place of solitude.
Today, I took a hymnal from the Lodge with me and sang, ‘How Great Thou Art!’ It was so cool to me to look up as I sang and see this beautiful, towering mountain and then to turn and see the cross. It struck me that the greatness of God was being displayed in two ways, through the mountain and the cross; and that of the two, the two slender poles that comprised the cross spoke more of the greatness of God than the many tons of massive rock that comprised the mountain. It’s amazing. God’s goodness, love, kindness, mercy, grace, justice, and greatness all symbolized in such a small thing. Looking at the cross now, it seems to me to be such a symbol of hope and promise, a sign of finality. Look what God has done! Forever, FOREVER, death has been conquered, sin defeated. God’s arms are wide open, beckoning the world to come: beckoning me. To think that I have access to God, the holy, almighty, eternal God, is unfathomable. What Jesus did for me is incomprehensible! Yet I still struggle with doubts, wondering if this great God could really be gentle and kind, could really forgive, could really love me. I struggle with giving up my pride. I often fight for myself and my perceived rights such as: the right of friendship, the right of family, the right of being loved, the right of getting what I think I deserve, the right of pleasure and comfort, the right of health and wholeness, the right to have sympathy, admiration, and appreciation, and the right to belong.
But compare that to what Jesus had while on earth in the end. The right of friendship? His friends deserted Him. The right of family? His family, during His ministry, thought He was crazy for the most part. The right of being loved? His family, friends, and followers said they loved Him, but none of them loved Him enough to die with Him. The right of getting what He deserved? Of all the people who have ever not gotten what they deserved, Jesus most. Not only did He not get what He deserved—praise and adoration from all people everywhere—He got what He did not deserve: the punishment for sins that others committed. The right of pleasure and comfort? Jesus gave up Heaven, His paradise, for sinful, fallen, pain-ridden Earth. The right of health and wholeness? Jesus was beaten so badly that all His bones were out of joint. His muscles and flesh were hanging from His body in ribbons because of the whipping He had received. He was bleeding so profusely His body probably went into shock. His head was punctured with long thorns that were beaten into His skull. Nails were pounded into His wrists and feet, and His ripped-open, bleeding back was pressed against a splintered cross. The right to have sympathy, admiration, and appreciation? He received no sympathy from His executioners. He was accused by His own countrymen of crimes He did not commit. He was hated by his country’s leaders. He was mocked, scorned, and ridiculed. He was tortured and killed. The right to belong? The world did not want Him. He was rejected by His family, His hometown, His country, His people, and His creation. And God Himself turned His back on Him.”
Thus ended my journal entry. However, my quest to discover just who this incredible God really is has only just begun. The journey may be difficult, and I know I will not be the same at the end of it. As Bilbo Baggins from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings once said, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.” He was right. But unless I take that step of faith out of my comfort zone and into the thrilling, terrifying unknown of trusting and discovering God, I will never fully experience Him. Here at Summit Semester God is working. Christ is glorified daily and lives are being transformed into His likeness. Deep questions are being wrestled through and enduring friendships are being forged. I am where God wants me. He is good, and I am blessed.
Darby Olson comes to Snow Wolf Lodge from Ohio. She loves having the opportunity to help others in a hands-on fashion. Darby also has a passion for fitness and sports, and especially loves volleyball and Ultimate Frisbee. In an effort to combine her passion for physical activity and helping others, Darby plans to work towards a degree in personal training, physical therapy, or athletic training. She has already completed some course work at Rhodes State College. After her time at Summit Semester, Darby hopes to have developed better study habits and grown in her faith, enabling her to more effectively engage the world with the truth.