I look at the branch as it curls upward, or does it curl downward? Wait, that is its reflection. The bent and twisted branch arches and bends, its sprouts excursioning just a bit and one just like it follows suit, its mirror image. Still water does this. It makes a fool of you. Were I not so clever, I might reach for the wrong branch.
Were I not so clever.
But that branch below, so very near the surface, must see its fellow above. Unless there are ripples or wind or waves, unless the bright sun blinds it or silt buries it, that lake-locked branch must think it’s the real branch. In the stillness it might wonder at that impostor who dares to look down and mock him. Surely, he, there under the water is the real branch. Weighty, yes, damp, yes, sometimes dark and lonely and tumultuous. Real must fend for his life while that sunny, dim and oddly dimensional branch goes missing every time.
On this still day, in these still waters, when the sun is low on the horizon, does that watery branch wonder at his fickle image above? If I came up out of the water, arose and shook off the weight that presses me down, what might I be? Is life as I know it not all of life? Is there more above the surface? Is that other branch real? Could it be even more real than I am?
Perhaps heaven is like that. We think the murk and mud and tumult we are under is real but we get a glimpse – in the stillest moments – of something that mirrors our existence. Maybe, if we were just pulled from under the water, lifted above the abyss, we would see that it is real. Brighter, broader, fuller in dimension and grander in color, it would be the glorious real we thought we were all along.
We are but a dim reflection, indistinguishable by the naked eye. It is such a human mistake to be taken in by such an optical illusion. Only in perfect stillness, at rising and setting of sun, do we glimpse real. Fully real.
Funny things happen when you sit in stillness and look from the lake shore. Which branch am I?
Where is the line between heaven and earth? When people pass, what do they pass? Where do they cross from here to there? If we’re headed toward something, shouldn’t we see it so we’ll know when we get there?
I see you…. you line on the horizon. But you are fickle. Yes, as the sun rises, you take shape. But as the sun sets, you fade and I can’t see you anymore. Certainly not in the distance. Up close all I can see is darkness. It feels firm at my feet, yet I can reach into it. The air has a different texture. Which is you? Where are you? Where is the line between?
Ah, when the sun rises, I’ll see! But wait: the fog obscures; the snow covers; the rain pelts; everything tosses to and fro in the wind. Where is the line? Where can I step to safety? Stand fast? Reach across? I just want to know where the border line is, so I’ll know I’m close.
If I crossed and looked back, would I see it then? From over or beyond or within, would the line be clear between terrestrial and heavenly? Between what was earthly and what was not?
No, I think not. Because Lord, when You stepped down from Kingdom into Dominion, You brought the line with you. Wherever You went, the Kingdom was. When you died and returned to heaven did you take this distinction with You? Did you erase the line? Obscure the evidence? Muddy the waters?
Or did you leave it with us?
As we enter our days, could it be that we cannot see the line between heaven and earth because it surrounds us? Actually encircling our travels, an amorphous heavenly goop (okay see-through slime if you will), that moves as we move. It goes before us and behind us and hems us in on each side. Perhaps the earth we see, the darkness and the poverty as well as the lightness and joy, we see through this heavenly plasma around us. Perhaps, it’s meant to tint our sight if we tune our eyes to just the right frequency. Oh, the strain and squint of the effort.
My eyes need rest. I count on them for so much. How can I count on them for this? Why must I work so hard to distinguish lines on the horizon or boundaries near at hand?
I want to trust that You are the line between and the passageway from here to there. Whether darkness or light, You are there in the middle. Perhaps I don’t need to know where the line is, just that it is. Perhaps there is no line, just a distance which is narrowed each time I reach out or over and feel for what’s in the darkness and pull it closer.
“All we can do is pray about it.” Is that something people say to you? Like, we’ve done everything we can, now we’re down to the final straw. One thing left to do…
Well, aside from the obvious – we’re supposed to pray first – I’m a bit leery of the last gasp prayer. Because it supposes that God won’t tell you, in your exasperated listening, to get off your knees and do something. Perhaps He won’t. Maybe He’ll just, with a consoling shake of the Great Head say, “Yes, I am frustrated with that circumstance, too. I am resigned to praying.” Which actually raises a whole other question…when God prays who does He pray to?…but that will have to wait for another day.
Today, I prefer to consider prayer as preparation. Preparing me for the next thing I am meant to do. When I suppose it is the last thing on the list, I’m presuming it’s all that will be asked of me. But what if He shows me something else? I need to leave that door open.
I just spoke to a friend who took a new job after 5 years in another position that was exceedingly difficult. This job, she says, is much harder, but in those 5 years God was teaching her and preparing her with all the tools she would need to succeed in the new job. As if He knew just where she was headed. Hard to believe.
That is what we say though, right? That He “has a plan for us, to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). So why would we settle for sitting in one place? Why would we insist on keeping this job? Why would we dig our feet in where we are? Probably because we know where we are. Where we are headed only He knows. But if we really trust that the way is His, then we need to be headed out. And, count on each faithful step preparing us for the next.
In my morning exercise I pull outward on the handles of my exercise tubing, its anchor in the hinge of the door, and squeeze my shoulder blades together, strengthening my shoulders and back. My body forms a T and I hold it there, a Crucifixion of sorts. Perhaps I am odd to wonder…Would this exercise prepare a body for crucifixion? How was Christ prepared? What could possibly prepare one for such a moment?
If God knew it was coming, if Christ was born to die on a cross, then His life was lived in preparation for exactly that moment, that event, that ending. Not to stand strong against it, but to do God’s will in it. To live it through to the end, until it is finished. There would be no praying it away. No asking for it to be removed – well, asking, but then resigning oneself to the reality – and then agreeing and submitting oneself to live the story as it had already been written.
Perhaps if I lived my life this way, even one day, accepting that everything that came and every hardship I faced, was intended specifically for the purpose of preparing me for the next thing, I would live differently. I would actually give thanks in ALL circumstances, knowing the work behind the scenes was all for the good of the one who loves God and has been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
What if God knew I could only fully experience the glories of heaven if my soul on earth was prepared fully? What if He designed each of our lives for exactly that purpose? As if He knew just where we were headed.