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I live in the desert, in a valley plain surrounded by four distinct mountain ranges. To the south, the elusive Santa Ritas. To the west, the jagged silhouettes of the Tucsons. The sun rises over the ancient, rounded Rincons. But it’s the long line of the Catalinas that I love most, marching along the north from one end of the plain to the other, so high you can see them from every part of the city.

The Catalinas are home to most of my favorite hikes, trails that twist their way up each major canyon along the line. If you hike far enough, you’ll make it all the way to the heart of the range, the peak of Mount Lemmon. I recently hiked one such canyon by the light of the full moon, headlamps stowed safely away in my friend’s pack. And it got me thinking.

There was a time, long ago, when God’s presence shook the foundations of Mount Sinai and bathed it in fire. There was a time when God’s people begged Moses not to let God speak to them, lest they die. In that time they stood far off, trembling—afraid to enter that Glory, to climb that mountain.

And yet, here I am. Surrounded not by fire but by gentle grey moonlight, blanketing the ground below in quietness. This trail, steadily making its way toward the mountain, weaving in and around the babbling remnant of our desert’s monsoon rains. Saguaro cacti, rising stark and majestic against the sky, edged in silver by the hands of the finest Jeweler the world has ever seen.

Four miles of careful footsteps over stones set on sparkling water, up the canyon’s side, the glittering lights of Tucson far below. Finally, the falls—cascade after cascade of ice-cold water spilling between slick walls of granite.

This is Eden. Water from rock. Life in the desert. The end of my wandering.

What a difference our Mediator makes. On this mountain I am met by love, not anger. In God’s presence I find rest, not fear. The veil has been torn, and, mercy of mercies, I may meet God face to face.

On that trail at the foot of the mountain, I curled up in the smooth curves of solid rock and rested. Under God’s mighty hand I am humbled; sheltered under the same hand, by grace alone, I may see God’s glory.

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