When four walls seem to be closing in on me I like to get out and get away. I used to love running for this reason, now it’s cycling. In a few minutes I’m outside the city limits, catching my breath, looking for a view across the river.
‘What do you miss most about England?’ I still get asked this from time to time. My answer is a stock, ‘You know, people really more than places.’
It’s true, but there are places I miss. My places. Of course they don’t belong to me, but they are the places I’d go when I needed some perspective or time out to think or pray or just to gaze in wonder for a while. There’s the wooden foot bridge over a river behind an old parish church I used to wander to when I was a teenager; the bluebell woods in May; views of the city from the train window on the approach to London Bridge and Charing Cross station; the view from Greenwich Park across London where I used to walk early in the morning when I was a student (in fact most views of London); the view of the Downs out of the train window on the way to the South Coast; views out of train windows in general; the views of the South Downs and the Sussex Wield from Arundel Park; the drive from Worthing to Guildford; Petworth Park; Wharfedale, North Yorkshire; the walk along the cliffs along Sheringham Golf Links, North Norfolk. I could go on and on. I can see them in my mind’s eye, almost be back there in my imagination, but sometimes I ache for the familiarity of those old haunts. I don’t get tired of those views. There is always something new to see.
There are always new places to find and experience. Some I hope to see in my life time. Some I just see through another’s eyes in a photograph or on a screen. I drink them in, looking longingly, picturing myself there. It’s why I love travel programmes so much. I like to look up, across and out.
Being a lover of words, another place I see great views are in books and stories. If I want to relax often I curl up with a book. The work of the imagination is an amazing thing. I love how a well written work of fiction can take me to a certain place in history, or another country, or an imagined world, and right into the thoughts and emotions of each character. An anonymous quote I came across this morning said, ‘Books don’t just go with you, they take you where you’ve never been.’ Like views, I have my favourites to come back to again and again.
None of these things, not stunning views or brilliant books, compare with the clarity and beauty I find in God’s word. At best they are glimpses. A great view may be glorious, a book may tug on my emotions, but nothing is able to change me like God working by His Holy Spirit through His word, revealing Himself to my searching heart.
The word glorious has rolled around in my thoughts for a few days. We talk about a glorious summer day, we sing about bringing glory to God, but what does it actually mean. For ‘glorious’ my dictionary says, ‘brilliantly beautiful.’ For ‘glory’ – ‘fame, praise, or honour, splendour, something worthy of praise, adoration or worship’. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary says, ‘resplendent majesty and magnificence’ in addition to this.
These thoughts kicked off after I read a very familiar passage to me, Paul’s prayer in Ephesians:
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,”
Ephesians 1:16-20 ESV
Father God has the rights on glory, He owns that word, and yet He gives us a glorious inheritance. The grace He gives us in cleansing us from sin and pouring out His Holy Spirit on our lives (Eph. 1:13) is brilliantly beautiful. It brings glory back to Him. The words ‘immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe’ leapt off the page. Immeasurable. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in my life! This is mind-blowing. What do I have to fear? How much more reason do I have to trust the one who exercised that great salvation power? I’ve read these words countless times, yet sometimes the Spirit knocks some words home.
I pray God helps me take hold of these things and live the truth out in my life. Just as Paul prayed this prayer for the believers in Ephesus, I pray this prayer for my church family and all my fellow believers, that we would see more evidence of the immeasurable greatness of His power which is at work in our lives, flowing out to our communities. A power so full of love and grace to transform lives.
It’s amazing how quick to forget I am. When I’m desperate for rest. When I feel problems closing in on me. I’m quick to forget that when I search for refreshment the only place to find it is in Jesus. It’s great to enjoy creation. It’s great to read good books or listen to great music. Yet none of these are ends in themselves. None can bring peace to my soul. No place however brilliantly beautiful will compare with the beauty of the Saviour, though it can spark praise to Him in my heart. No work of fiction, however beautifully written, or however many themes of redemption may be in it, compares to the words contained in the Bible.
My heart searches for the glorious, wants to bring glory to something – and the only person at the end of the search is Jesus. He is the answer to the ache for the familiar, and the longing for the new. He is my home.