It begins when you get a glimpse…
Maybe it’s first-hand and unexpected. Suddenly and through no effort of your own, there it is staring you in the face; it’s real, it’s obvious and it’s more significant than you would ever have guessed. It lodges somewhere within, producing a feeling that won’t easily pass, and now… something will be thought of differently from here forward.
It can also happen second-hand, when a compelling description offered by someone else awakens a hope and desire within you to see what they have seen, experience what they have experienced and own for yourself what they now own within themselves. But either way – whether first- or second-hand – more is needed; more is now wanted.
I remember my first trip up SR 410. Cresting the hill into Bonney Lake, a mesmerizing white monolith threw itself across road and sky, absolutely filling my field of vision, framed by evergreens – and the idea that I should continue driving as usual in that moment was just hard to wrap my head around. Truly “awesome” in the old-school sense of the word.
On another day, driving from Auburn to Enumclaw, compelling images began to hit the windshield near the tribal school and became an uninterrupted feed once 164 bent eastward. But my anticipation of increasing beauty degraded into beautiful disappointment: the closer I was getting to the mountain, the more restricted my view of it became. You live here, you know the phenomenon.
Rainier hints at what it is to encounter God.
It begins when you get a glimpse of him, a bit of exposure to the reality. It’s beautiful, it’s awakening and it makes you want more, but if you try to stay put and bask in it, that beautiful view will soon fade back into the scenery; acknowledged, yet no longer compelling. You’ll still tip your hat to the greatness of God, but you’ll no longer be moved by it. Anything, no matter how impressive, can only stay focal for as long as you will actively investigate its facets.
So instead, you choose to pursue God earnestly and find the very lay of the land blocking your view. At first, it’s the foothills: secondary blessings getting in the way and/or obstacles to be overcome. Then the wilderness thickens – circumstances that consume your attention and nearly shut out all other realities. These circumstances may be as good as the forest is beautiful, or as tough as it is dangerous; either way, don’t forget your greater goal.
Hiking a Crystal Mountain trail for the first time, I was closer to the east face of Rainier than I had ever been, yet saw nothing of it across 4.5 miles and 2,700 feet of elevation gain. The last fractional distance on the trail, however, was an incredible revelation. Last week, my son made the hike with me and this time, a dense fog denied us every indicator of that massive reality, even at the summit. When I shared photos of what he would have seen, however, his response was to this effect: “Wow; now I get it.”
While there are unbreakable guarantees given to those who earnestly seek God, they aren’t attached to any timetables. Camp where the views are supposed to be and your clear days will come.
The glimpse ignites the whole process. The shuttered windows of the wilderness verify and transform your desire into something relational and committed, rather than just experiential and flaky. And the payoff for it all is, of course, beautiful and powerful.
Steve Strombom is lead pastor at Enumclaw Nazarene Church.