Mark 9:24

Where points the mountain

In Lay Meditations on February 5, 2012 at 12:06 am

It takes no originality to describe the ascent to truth as climbing a mountain. Christians should take pains to add an emphasis: We do this by only by the grace of God.

Whoever we credit, rightly or wrongly, one feature of an ascent to truth is that as we near the peak it becomes clear we are not headed exactly where we thought we would be. Our chosen path turns too rocky; this land is too real.

Central to mystery is knowledge before us, but still even more some great knowledge beyond.

Discerned as it is by mortal reason, it must occur to us that this summit of small, striking truths can hardly be the Summit of All Truth; this even though the view is nothing we would have thought of; this even though it is eerily as our clearest, sharpest dreams.

From higher yet come the subtle hints of the great tapestry which is Creation, and in the thick air up here we see that we are caught on its messy side. From this height there is just the hint, just glimpse enough, of a greater pattern than we can ever know here. We can almost see something just beyond the cusp of the horizon, and only in the corner of our eye does the sun show his face.

Leaning forward, outward, past the bay below us, we sometimes see as in a sharp focus that all things, and not only all things we see, point in no uncertain direction. To what? — but at that point the horizon impedes us.

By the sunlight at dawn can we see what we do see, and much of what we can see; the greatest thing we see is that we do not see everything. (By eternity, God willing, shadows will lose their substance against us.)

But if we are bound unwillingly to accept that there are heights from which we see, if we are bound unwillingly to accept there are trees and that there are fearsome things with teeth and that there are pretty girls and that there are their petty hatreds and that there are songbirds, we are not bound in the same way to accept anything of the horizon. Anything just beyond that infinitesimal point is, strictly speaking, unknown. We are free to reject it. If there is a tug in that direction once in a long while, we are free to shrug it off. We are bound to be drawn there, and we are bound to wonder, but that is our only binding. But once enter reflection and we are bound to notice where everything points, or at least that everything points.

Only as a lover can we be bound to such a thing unseen we ache to see. We are bound forever and immutably, and by our free consent, terrified at the unknown, uncertain future; it is not our consent but our submission which sanctifies this choice. More clearly, God accepts our surrender and thereby we are freely given His grace.

Nothing is quite our own; everything bequeathed that we may bring a dowry. We are not gurus leading at the mountaintop for our wisdom is not our own. We speak not from authority but on the command of another, and if we speak with the heart of a lion we keep the fear and trembling of a man before his king. Grass and rubble twixt our toes, each its own yet owned by God. As are we.

Onwards and upwards, as the Narnians had it. Though our feet may ache our heart aches more, and such aching is more joy than we have known pain.

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  1. […] truth is such an uphill climb, how many men remain in the valleys; how praiseworthy are they who even make the attempt […]

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