Neither Height Nor Depth

Arden Howell
March/April 2015

Bucket List:

1. Hike in the Swiss Alps

2. Explore Alaska, see Denali

3. Camp at Glacier National Park



Studying abroad in Europe provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to hop on a train and explore an entire continent. Sitting in my apartment in Florence, Italy last summer, homework became much too dull, and my bucket list resurfaced in my mind. A few hours later, I was on a train with two of my roommates, on our way to Interlaken, Switzerland. The mountains called, and I had to go (thanks, John Muir).

The German student working the desk at our hostel gloomily presented our best option for the rainy day we were experiencing. "Oh, well, for a day like today, there's an indoor swimming pool at the big hotel down the road," she said. I struggled not to scowl at her. She clearly underestimated my grit and my perseverance to achieve my major life goals. I did NOT come to Switzerland to swim in a dirty indoor pool.

So, surrounded by thick fog and mist with occasional downpours of rain, my friends and I headed up a trail from Grindewald to First, where we had learned of a zip line on top of the mountain.

We immediately took notice of the 70-degree incline on parts of the paved trail, something our recent Italian diets of pasta and gelato did not prepare us for. At some points, the fog would completely envelop us, preventing us from seeing ten yards in any direction. But oh, when it cleared, the view would again knock us off our feet. Looking down, small ponds and lakes seemed to glow blue, as if God had dowsed the valley in Gatorade Frost. The continuing wetness seemed to make the grass greener by the minute, as our surroundings got more beautiful with every turn, with every new lookout.

As we huffed and puffed our way up for hours, we encountered an elderly American couple from Colorado, enormous cows I'd only ever envisioned in fairy tales, and fields of wildflowers that master painters could only attempt to depict. Each time we came through a clearing of trees, the adjacent mountains rose far above us, and the rest of the world. They seemed to surround us like giant stone curtains, covered in snow and flowers just like the mountain on which we were standing.

Looking off into a deep valley, with mountains beyond, I seemed to hear the voice of the Lord saying, "See the valley? That's where you are right now, but you're not alone. You're on the way up, and you have no idea what's waiting for you at the top." Sweet, cathartic tears rolled gently down my face as I felt the faithfulness of the Lord rush over me. He has never abandoned me. He's given me beautiful images of mountains and valleys to show me how deep and how high his love is, and that though the journey is ever-changing, He is never-changing.

When we finally reached our destination, a small “town” called First, Switzerland, we were short on Swiss francs and stamina. We scrounged up enough to feel the rush of a zip line like none I’d ever seen. This was no summer camp in Texas- this was experiencing a flying sensation among some of the tallest peaks my eyes will ever see. Gazing out from my harness, the mountains surrounded me like waves, engulfing me and overwhelming me. Tears came once again, with the realization of the freedom found in completely trusting God, letting go, and accepting the depth of the valleys, as well as the heights of the Alps.


About the Author

  • Arden_Howell's picture

    Arden Howell is a journalism student at Baylor University with a passion for all things mountainous. Having felt the presence of the Lord most strongly there, she is striving to find employment in one of the beautiful corners of the US, overcome by altitude. 

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