“I lift up my eyes to the hills--
where does my help come from?”
Car-makers know something about the American public that no one else does: to wit, that we all secretly long to stretch our legs in the wide-open country of the Great Plains. Why?—I don’t know, but automobile ads very frequently seem to feature “the country”—more specifically, the rural Midwest and
Makes sense, I suppose. According to the U. S. Census, the states with the longest average daily commutes are
New Jersey, Maryland,
Illinois, and California.
Backed-up freeways don’t sell cars.
Where is commute time least? You
guessed it: South
Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska.
What sells cars is the mythic backroads adventure—SUVs, four-wheeling, mud-defying pickups, even though very few of us ever do any off-roading. What sells car is the perception of escaping bottlenecks, fast food, strip malls, and wearying eight-lane metro traffic. What sells cars is the siren song of getting away.
In that sense, the psalmist is just like everybody else: he lifts up his eyes to the hills. He wants to get away. A place on the lake, maybe a river—that’ll do it. Doesn’t need to be big either, just a cabin, and I’m outta’ here.
It may well be a version of the old “grass is always greener” argument, this verse. From the day-to-day grind of our lives—same faces, same cluttered desks, same blasted lunch counters and restrooms—we simply want release.
We fantasize. I remember dreaming of living near mountains. Then, we did. But grading papers is grading papers, and we never got up there, even though those mountains were close. The only times I took note of them was on my bike, riding to work, when they seemed as much a dream as they ever had been.
Forty years later it’s still in me, this yearning to look to the hills. I’m about to grow gills. For the last month, every Saturday, every weekend, it has rained. My forays into the rolling hills west of town ground to a halt four weeks ago, and me and my camera have been missing the gold-quilts maturing beans lay over the land. There’s been no sun on Saturdays.
Dark and dreary weather has kept me from a weekly pilgrimage that has been the joy of my life for the last several years, Saturday morning country wandering. I could be in one of those ads.
God doesn’t dwell in some hand-hewn log cabin in the hills. He doesn’t even weekend there. He got a place at the lake all right but no Airstream or fifth wheel. Yosemite is as gorgeous a place as you can find on earth. Jasper, the Big Horns, Yellowstone, the Canadian Rockies—even the words get me itchy. He’s there too, but he’s not just there.
The psalmist must have felt it too because the first line of this beautiful psalm of praise and joy is a confession, I think—I lift up my eyes to the hills, as if he’s there somewhere, as if God is in residence at Custer State Park. When we get tired or bored or stymied, we all want to go somewhere we’re not.
But the hills won’t do it. Weekend rains for a month, and I’ve got to remind myself those little Saturday trips don’t bring me home.
My help doesn’t come from the hills. My help comes from the Lord.