I can’t do those fake 3D drawings. You know, the ones where you focus on a red dot or some such thing, and all of a sudden out pops a scene that you didn’t see before. I have friends who can see it in a few seconds, but I just can’t seem to get the hang of it. I’m looking, but I can’t see it.
The same thing happens to some of us when we look at life. We’re looking, but all we see is the obvious: bills, work, relationships, the news, the games, the pain, love, death. The stuff included in the phrase “that’s just life, man.”
But what if that ISN’T just life? What if there was another reality, right alongside the stuff we already see, that we can get a glimpse of if we just adjust our way of looking? Even better — what if looking at a different place, and seeing a different thing, can actually change our life here and now, can actually change the way we look at all this life stuff?
In two of today’s lections, we see this very thing taking place. Let’s take a look. (See what I did there?)
First, in Genesis 15, we see Abram and God having a discussion. (Yeah, I know — we could spend the next week or so talking about talking with God like that. For now, let’s just go with it.) Abram is reminding God of God’s promise of offspring for Abram. In fact, Abram is sort of throwing it up in God’s face: “Look here, God, you can talk about being my shield all you want; what I want to know about is that son you promised.” After a little back and forth, God tells Abram to look at the stars, then says “So shall your descendants be.” There follows one of the key verses in Genesis:
And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.
You get that? Abram understood all too clearly that he was getting old. (Trust me, when it’s happening to you, you can try to ignore it, but eventually you get it.) Abram wasn’t stupid; he knew that no matter how he looked at his current situation, diapers weren’t in the cards. And yet, Abram was able to look with faith-filled eyes and see a different reality — a reality out in the future, to be sure, but a reality that Abram could sense just as well as he could sense the aches in his joints. He knew where to look, and when he looked, he saw.
In Phillipians 3, Paul starts talking about people who are “enemies of the cross.” As Paul is wont to do, he paints a pretty bleak picture of these people: “Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.” But then he gives a contrast with one of my favorite verses, and favorite concepts, in all the Bible:
But our citizenship is in heaven.
Think about that phrase. There is so much rich, rich imagery in that idea: Where is your home country? Where are you headed? What is your destination? And a little more: While you are visiting here, as a representative of that foreign land, how do you act? What do you think about the things of this world, if ultimately you are going to wind up somewhere else?
One of my favorite songs is “The Pilgrim” by Nancy Henigbaum, recorded by Cynthia Clawson. Here’s the first verse:
I am a pilgrim, but not a rambler;
There is a pathway meant just for me.
I only fumble when I won’t follow:
I only stumble when I won’t see.
We are pilgrims in this world. Our citizenship is in another land. Even as we deal with the stuff of this life — and we are absolutely called to deal with it, and not run from it — we have to figure out how to keep our eyes on that Distant Land. We have to learn to look at the day-to-day of this life, and see God in it. And, we have to look to that peak in the distance, and use it as a guidepost for today.
Where are you looking? What do you see?