I sit a passenger in the car making a fairly routine journey from my university home in Nottingham to my family home in Devon.
You’ll all be able to picture this type of journey in one form or another. Long stretches of motorway, winding through endless miles of British countryside, with very little to do but make conversation, catch some nap time (I’m not driving, for any concerned readers) and quietly observe the familiar, changing scenery.
On this particular journey, the rain tears down in frequent bursts from the blanket of grey clouds above. In a manner typical of British weather, these bursts of precipitation alternate with periods of clear sky with more unpredictability than a hormonal adolescent.
And then, from no-where, golden rays of sunlight pierce the monotone canvas. Shades of grey turn to hues of orange, dappled here and there with highlights of red and pink. Like the work of a master painter, the horizon turns to a vision of beauty. The very atmosphere changes as the rain clears and light breaks through.
It takes my breath away.
We turn a bend in the motorway; for a period the picture is lost, the clouds return; but in a moment we get to behold again this masterpiece.
Having travelled further along the road, we look upon the picture from a new angle, a different perspective. This time it is leagues of Somerset countryside, rolling fields and neatly cultivated farmland, across which the golden rays break. The sky is highlighted in hues of red as the sun catches the edges of the fluffy clouds. Once again, my breath catches in my throat.
With each new angle, each new perspective, I continue to be blown away by the beauty of it all. No matter how many times I see it, there are always new angles and sights that grab my attention, new wonder to be had.
I think this wonder at nature is a simile for our relation to the Divine.
As we look upon God, we catch but a breath of eternal splendour, we step for a short moment into blinding glory. As creatures beholding the Creator, daring to look into the Heavenly of Heavenlies, we catch only an iota of beauty incomparible, limited as we are by our dim, clouded eyes. With Paul, we say that “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12, ESV).
Salvation is not the end of our journey in attaining a knowledge God. Far from it. Rather, it is the start of an upward journey. A journey in which, day by day, we wake up to behold new aspects of God’s unfathomable beauty. We are small swimmers traversing a vast, endless ocean of God’s grace and mercy and glory.
Gregory of Nyssa called it epiktasis, the upward journey towards the perfection of the Father, as we traverse eternity constantly beholding new aspects of His glory. Reaching eternity is less like a state of attaining perfection – rather, it is an endless journey of constantly learning and beholding new aspects of God’s glory.
Why does the Psalmist constantly sing to God a new song? Because there is never a time when the mercies of God, breaking upon the shores of our creaturely understanding, grow old or can be grasped fully. Why do the elders of John’s apocalypse repeatedly cast their crowns before God, for all eternity? Because there is not a time when they cease to marvel and fall awestruck at the glory, the power, the wrath, the love, the all-consuming grace of God.
Has your spiritual life grown dry? Then come before the King of Kings, the Lord of all Creation, simply to marvel at majesty unimagined. Don’t come with an agenda. Simply come to enjoy his presence. It never grows old. There is never a point in the spiritual journey, for now or for eternity, when we will fully grasp it. The more we see of Him the more we realise there is to see.
Like the sun breaking through the clouds upon this small man travelling across a stretch of Somerset motorway, there is never a time when a picture of His glory will cease to take our breath away. As we travel through this temporal life, into eternity, we will never cease to be amazed as we catch new glimpses, new angles, of His constant mercies and affections. He is the light breaking through the clouds, constantly surprising us as He weaves new hues and colours into the sky’s tapestry.
Come, behold. He is a good, good Father, and He delights to give. Delight in the gift.