Have you ever been at the top of a mountain ridge, or perhaps at the edge of a lake or ocean, but all you could see in front of you was a wall of misty, gray fog? And then, the fog lifts and breaks, and coming sharply into focus before you is a vista you’d been completely unaware of, and that perhaps takes your breath away.
My devotional readings recently included an excerpt from a Christian author who came to the conclusion that even though he had written, taught and preached much about the Christian faith, there remained “an enormous abyss between my insights and my life.” The author expressed frustration at how far he still had to go in the journey of Christian faith, and the reality that “the clearer the vision, the more aware I am of the depth of the canyon” that plunges between where he is and where he knows that God is calling him to be. Sometimes, perhaps we’d prefer the fog.
Have you ever had that feeling? It’s the feeling that, the further we go and the more we grow as followers of Christ, the more clearly we see just how far we have to go. It can be discouraging. It’s a good reminder to ask the Holy Spirit to prod and to probe us, and to say along with David:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
The psalm reminds us that if we come clean before God and open ourselves up to his loving inspection, he will be faithful to show us the paths that lead to life. When we see God far across the canyon, God sees us, too, and longs for us to be closer to him. In Jesus Christ and by the work of the Holy Spirit, he makes it possible.
An unobstructed view of the holiness of God rightly stirs up awe within us and reminds us of our own lack of holiness. But for the Christian, it also provides a compelling vision of the goodness of the God who calls us to walk with him, and of the kind of righteous life God enables us to live when we keep in step with the Holy Spirit.
According to the Gospel of Luke, Simon Peter had this kind of encounter with Jesus. Jesus observed Peter fishing and coming up empty. He instructed Peter to cast out his nets one more time:
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (See Luke 5:5-11)
A clear view of God’s holiness is completely overwhelming. The clearer our view of God’s love for us and of his desire that we follow him faithfully and fruitfully, the more we can set aside fear and follow with joy. May God grant each of us at Redeemer clearer vision and deeper desire to walk with Jesus in the days ahead.