End Goal

I just returned from a brief trip to Yosemite. Aside from enjoying the obvious and stunning natural beauty of the area, I had another goal in mind for this foray. What was this goal, you ask? Praying from the infamous summit of Half Dome. Praying for what? Revival.

Tenaya Canyon from the summit of Half Dome

You see, for the past year I’ve been pursuing something that I like to call “mountain prayer.” It all started when my mother suggested that I encircle Reno, Nevada, my hometown, with the glory of God. If you’re familiar with Reno—or for that matter, Nevada—you can understand the efficacy of such a pursuit. The most well known city in my home state, Las Vegas, is known as “Sin City.” But the environment created by the legalization of gambling, prostitution, and other morally inexcusable activities extends well beyond the larger metropolitan areas, it permeates every aspect of every region of the state.

Unfortunately, the lax legal control of activities harmful to society has created a vacuum in which wandering towards Christly mores is economically infeasible. What’s the solution? While I don’t discount the importance of legislative or governmental intervention, I believe God is the ultimate source of global transformation. This is why I set out to encircle Reno in prayer. And since I love nature and find mountainous environments inspiring, I decided to pray over my hometown from the surrounding peaks, thus creating the moniker.

Evening lights, Yosemite

If you’re wondering where my inspiration for “praying circles” came from, you needn’t look any further than The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. By God’s good fortune I had been slowly completing a prayer circle around Reno for close to a month when I received this book as a gift. In its pages I found inspiration and encouragement that further strengthened my desire to release God’s presence over geographic areas. Isn’t it great how the Father commissions us to do something and then provides the exact resources we need? It didn’t take me long to complete my first prayer circle around Reno, so I quickly moved on to praying over other regions—Yosemite included.

I had the opportunity to spend several days just outside of Yosemite Valley in June. I found myself with a fair deal of spare time (it was a vacation, after all) and decided to pray a circle around the valley. I prayed from strategic points located above the Northern, Southern, and Western fringes of the valley, but there was a glaring hole in my loop. I had no way to pray from the prominent peak to the East, Half Dome. I had unsuccessfully attempted to secure a permit to hike to the summit of this icon and had no way of completing my prayer circle.

A few days ago, however, the opportunity to climb this giant slab of granite once again presented itself. I ecstatically acquired a permit and joyously celebrated the prospect of finally encircling Yosemite Valley with God’s glory present in me. Admittedly, though, I may have been happier to gain the chance at checking another peak off my personal list of summits. This is evidence of the struggle between my flesh and my spirit, proof of spiritual growth that I have yet to experience.

Climber, Half Dome

Anyways, time to get back to the point of this post. Yesterday I made the four hour drive from my home to the Half Dome trailhead, prayerfully (and happily!) attained the summit, hiked back down the slopes, and then drove home. A long day? Yes. Worth it? You bet! But as it turns out, I was slightly disappointed by the experience. I was hoping to have a fundamentally awe-inspiring day and set my expectations for the endeavor at an unattainably high level. Maybe I was just tired from waking up well before dawn, yet I don’t think this was the case.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time and the view from the top is world class, however, I was looking for earthly fulfillment in an area that only God can satiate. I thought that completing the prayer circle of Yosemite Valley was a righteous end goal—and still believe that it is—but had put too much emphasis on the me aspect of the circle rather than the God aspect. Thankfully, the Creator showed me that He is the only true end goal of any worldly or spiritual pursuit. Anything that falls short of Him falls short of all that it can be. This is what God showed me on Half Dome.

Half Dome (left) and Liberty Cap from the John Muir Trail

The final goal of our worldly endeavors is often fulfilling and frequently inspires us to endure hardship for a greater, if delayed, reward. I realize that my current trials in academia are difficult, but I take heart in the fact that there is a goal at the end of the journey. Of course, I find strength in Jesus as well. Actually, I believe finding encouragement in our faith is one of the best courses of action on our journey towards the eternal goal, heaven. Philippians 3:14 reads: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (ESV). God and His will are the goals and anything else is but a fleeting prescription for our earthly ailments.

The twists and turns that your journey towards Christ will take are wholly unique. God doesn’t want a bunch of clones walking around. How would that appease His desire for companionship? You’re unique, Jesus loves you as you are, and He wants you to know that whether you’re running towards heaven’s end goal through evangelism, prayer, or any other holy pursuit, He loves you.

Cascade Creek, Yosemite

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17 ESV). God desires for you to gain fulfillment in your earthly accomplishments. But He ultimately wants you to remain focused on your destiny in Him, not your destiny in temporal things. It took disappointment for me to realize this. If we remain steadfast in the knowledge that He is the most authentic ambition, all of our earthly accomplishments will take on a new, more profound meaning.


5 thoughts on “End Goal

  1. Jonathan, great photos especially the header. I love spending time in wilderness too and share your conviction that it’s very renewing (I feel the wonder and the peace of it even in a purely secular context). My husband has carried his tripod and camera along with us on many hikes and backpacks over the years, I see that you do that, too. A bit of a sacrifice (especially before the newer lighter-weight tripods were developed) but the only way to get really nice photos.

  2. Jonathan,
    I enjoyed reading your blog immensely. I also find spiritual inspiration in nature. I found your writing and photography full of God’s grace and beauty.

    Thank you for sharing,

  3. Thank you for posting this, Jonathan. It is, indeed, inspirational. And your photography is excellent. I hope you are submitting it for publication somewhere! Meanwhile, I hope this blog generates some interest and following in your work. Beautiful!

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