Seeing clearly often seems an illusive pursuit. As humans, we want not only to have a plan, understand the mission and know where we’re headed, but we aren’t completely comfortable unless we can “see” what all that will look like when we arrive. As Christians, we must come to understand how to arrive at a level of comfort, (perhaps “peace” would be the better word) absent the tangible clarity of what’s around the corner.
The above photo was taken from the same spot on our deck, same view of the mountain range, but on different days. You’ll likely assume that one was taken on a crystal clear day, and another on a dreary, cloudy day…not so. Both were taken on crystal clear days! The difference? The first was taken on a day when smoke from forest fires over 100 miles away, had blown in and settled in Colorado Springs.
Now if you had never been here, or never seen the first picture, you’d probably still believe me that there were mountains beyond the smoke. You wouldn’t however, know how far they were, how tall they were or have any clear vision of what your eye would see when the smoke cleared. This is true of so many things in our lives and it makes us uncomfortable; perhaps even to the point of beginning not to trust that the mountains are really there…or perhaps that they’re there, but may be scary or not good for us.
The result of this might be that you turn and move away from the haze, away from the uncertainty. We can tend to move back towards what is clear and familiar. The sad truth of this is, that if we never move forward into the haze, clinging to a need for tangible absolutes, we often miss the beauty and grandeur that awaits us on the other side.
God knows this. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul tells us that “now we see a reflection, as in a mirror…”. He goes on to say; “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully…”. When we reach Heaven, we’ll have many of our questions answered and there’ll be no more need or desire to see around the corner. But for now, we must learn to be content with the following statement: Understanding a life with God, means understanding that we won’t understand everything. (you may want to read that twice!)
You may say, “well it’s great that God knows what’s beyond the smoke, but He’s God…how am I supposed to be comfortable with that?” My advice would be, take a page from the life of Abraham, who took his entire family and belongings, and followed God to a land he had never seen. No websites to view, no friends or family there ahead of him to get things set up. Nothing to see. He just went.
Or from Noah, who spent 75 (or more) years building an enormous boat to save a small remnant of humanity from a devastating flood that God would send. No doubt, Noah spent lots of dry sunny days, months and years forging ahead, preparing for an event that had never happened before (and never would again). An event he had no earthly reason to believe would occur. Just God’s word that it would come…that he would see it. And of course, he did.
Let’s not take a page from the story of the Israelites journey to the promise land. Now to give them credit, they did start out with the intent of following God to the land He had promised, and that they’d not yet seen. But like the seed that fell on rocky soil in “The Parable of the Sower” (Mt 13:3-23), when trouble and persecution came, they fell away, wanting to run back to what was familiar (Exodus 16:2-3). The uncertainty of what lies around the corner, propels us back into our comfortable shells.
As I write this, my family and I face this haze once again. We faced it five years ago when God lead us to Colorado with no clear vision, nothing tangible to grab; just a command for us to go and make a difference for Him. Like so many others, COVID-19 has now taken my job, and so we are in search of His next assignment for us on this journey. That assignment may be right here; but then again, it may not.
I’d be lying if I said stepping into the smoke was easy. We love our mountains, our dry climate, hiking and no bugs. We love the brothers and sisters we’ve befriended and ministered to and with. We also loved our nearly 20 years in Tennessee and our church family there, but He called us and so we went.
While we’ll do our best to peer through the haze to see what’s around the next corner, at the end of the day we’ll go, knowing relatively little and seeing even less. We’ll crawl out of our shells with a little uncertainty and perhaps some healthy fear, and we’ll step onto the path not yet taken, trusting that He’s already on the other side, waiting with something great.
In this time when nothing seems certain, truth is relative and there’s very little familiar, solid ground to stand on, let’s stand on the Rock that never moves. Let’s be brave enough to step into the uncertainty that He leads us to. The fact is, it’s the only thing we can be certain of.