Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide. And Moses went up the mountain of God.
At the end of my senior year of high school, my older sister graduated from college and returned home for the summer. I was in the middle of physically training for a trip to Israel. Just four years prior, my sister had also taken this trip. She looked at my training plan and informed me that my training was insufficient. Taking it into her hands, my sister decided that three or four times a week, she would take me to Sanctuary Woods on the south side of Holland and we would climb the 170 wooden steps in our hiking boots. We climbed up, turned around, climbed down, turned around, climbed up… over and over.
Besides physical training, the Israel trip required participants to memorize Bible verses for various places in the trip, but memorizing Bible verses was and is terrifying to me. I remember sitting in the back row of a Bible class in sixth grade during a Bible memory quiz. I fought back tears over not being able to remember the exact phrasing of the verse. My emotions beat on me. How could a pastor’s daughter be so bad at remembering the exact words of the Bible? In preparation, my mom and I had drawn pictures to represent various words. She and I had developed motions to go along with the phrases. After working with my mom, I had gently jumped on the trampoline and had rhythmically bounced a basketball on the front drive. With each repetitive movement, I had the verse in front of me, as I desperately tried to memorize it. So the quiz? Yes, I failed it.
As my sister and I climbed up and down the stairs, she began quizzing me on the seven Bible verses I had to memorize for the Israel trip. The fears of memorizing whizzed back to me, but my sister started with short phrases and I repeated them as we stepped. Seven passages from all over the Bible. Eventually, after thousands of steps and hundreds of repetition, my sister decided we should just laminate the verses and put them on a keyring for me to carry. After all, if pictures, motions, and kinetic movement couldn’t get memory verses in my head in sixth grade, what would?
Yet, while I climbed those wooden stairs, half hating my sister for putting me through such a wretched regimen and half hating the impending trip for making me fail at memorizing Bible verses once again, one verse lodged itself in my memory as its rhythm met my boots’ rhythmic thumping.
Then MOses set OUT with JOSHua his AIDE. And MOses went UP the MOUNtain of GOD.
Step, step, step, step. I imagined Moses as this old man, climbing the mountain. My brain fought with my body: if Moses climbed that mountain multiple times to hear God’s voice, to carry the Ten Commandments, to carry the second copy of the Ten Commandments, and to hear God’s voice some more, then dear Lord, I can take the next step and I can get to the top of these stairs!!!
Almost exactly seven years later, I climbed Flattop Mountain outside of Anchorage, AK. Once again, my sister accompanied me, but there was also my older brother, his best friend, and my husband. The mountain’s steep path turned into gravel rocks which turned into boulders. The guys scrambled ahead, out of my view. I tried to push the fear of slipping and falling on the loose rocks and the thoughts of inadequacy from my mind and focus on my feet thumping slowly and rhythmically along the path. A familiar verse, lodged deep in my memory, started to pound. The image of Moses appeared as I took my next step.
“Then Moses set out.” I can do this. “With Joshua his aide.” I bet Joshua didn’t complain. “And Moses went up.” For the hundredth time, if Moses could do it, then I can, too! “The Mountain of God.” See mountain? I’m taking you down. Or, climbing you up. Whatever. “Moses set out.” Just how old was he? “With Joshua his aide.” More my age. “And Moses went up.” Another two steps. “The Mountain of God.” Okay, God. I’m coming.