“It’s like this: As the darkness feels like it is closing in with each news report, our health and our very future often feel threatened. Amidst the echo of fear I hear from all directions, I wake up each morning and delight to see that God has done it again – for behold, there is a beautiful sun rising from the horizon again and the birds have been singing for hours already. I’m enjoying coffee with a ridiculous amount of whipped cream on it, and there is still ice cream in the freezer waiting to be savored in a bit. How do I reconcile these two realities?”
It can’t be where we start. If we try to pursue delight for only what it is, we end up with naked hedonism. As Lewis famously interpreted Matthew 6:33 – “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things”
So, I return to my original question: How do I reconcile the tension between these two realities?
I feel a desperate need to hold up the beautiful, to sing with the birds that God still reigns and His glory is breathtaking – is this the song of a lunatic? The tinny echo of a blind optimist who is disconnected from reality? Can we really ground ourselves in this slowing and savoring lifestyle when it feels like the world is burning down around us?
Perhaps this is where the cart has been put before the horse. Because the reality is this: Try as we might, we cannot do it on our own. We are not strong enough. Our attention span falters, we hit a dead end, and then what? Or we take it too far and up worshipping the very thing that was intended to draw our eyes up to the gory of God. When our enjoyment of the gifts around us begins to feel like more hard work, and your very desire to find the wonder leads to a whole other sense of hopelessness, where do you turn?
After all, every created thing has a necessary end in and of itself – we are a finite people reaching for an infinite good.
How do we span this maddening gap?
Humor me for a moment. This quote is longer than I usually would include – but Lewis makes it worth your time.
“I was standing today in a dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead, I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” (This moment of enlightenment is brought to us by C. S. Lewis from his book God in the Dock.)
Looking along the beam vs. looking at the beam. This is revolutionary!
When I look deep into a flower, I see depths of beauty that are hard to describe. But when I look along the beam of that beauty to behold that One who created that flower, I stand with Job, who upon seeing the glory of God, said “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42.
Piper describes it like this: All of God’s creation becomes a beam to be “looked along” or a sound to be “heard along” or a fragrance to be “smelled along” or a flavor to be “tasted along” or a touch to be “felt along”. All our senses become partners with the eyes of the heart in perceiving the glory of God through the physical world”
Do you sense it? This is where it all comes together like the pieces of a puzzle finally revealing their secret beauty. Don’t leave me now – but hold your breath with me as we enter this sacred place! Don’t let your gaze of wonder stop at the object that takes your breath away. Look beyond – let your gaze travel upwards along the beam of His glory and see, truly see, the face of God.
We don’t will this moment into existence. He took the first step. He breathed it all into reality, and every day He sustains it’s continued existence. But there’s so much more! When we built a wall, He made a way through. When darkness rose up in us, His light shone through. This is the door – the only way to go from seeing what He made to truly savoring it as He intended. It is His communication to us of a newer, brighter, more beautiful way than we could ask or imagine!
Do you know my Jesus? Have you drawn deep of the draft of this eternal life? Lean in, my friend. Hold your breath. Because this is where it all starts. We owed a price we couldn’t pay – but that didn’t stop Him from embarking on the greatest rescue mission of all time! He paid our price for us, died an undeserving death and welcomes all who accept this gift into His family with open arms. And every birdsong, every flower that blooms into impossible glory, every star that appears night after night in the dark sky, every waft of fresh bread, is declaring this unfathomable truth!
We can see the face of the Creator when we accept the payment made by Jesus. If this reality isn’t the greatest good in your life, pause. Right here. Talk to God. Tell Him you’re sorry. Ask Him to carry the weight of your failings for you. Let Him fill your heart with freedom, with lightness, with joy – with all the glory you’ve been craving your whole life. It’s right there – trace the sunbeam up to the author and let the Son fill you!
And let the world of wonder in.