Mt. Lafayette is, by any Pacific Northwest standards, just a hill, topping off at a mere 5,249 feet. It’s beautiful in it’s own right, but only a hill. Still, the hike to to the summit is an exercise in endurance because most of the hike is shrouded in forest, save the few openings where one is able to see some remarkable granite walls (next time I’m bringing climbing gear). The cocktail of steep sections, wet rocks, and warm air thick with humidity makes the journey a little boring. Without the distractions of great views, the negative elements of sweat and bugs seem magnified, and I find myself asking, “Why am I doing this?” every 30 minutes or so. As we near the delightful AMC hut, the trees thin out, and we enjoy the views.
We rest for a few minutes, and then ponder our next moves. Reports say a storm is coming, but the summit is in clear view, just below the clouds. My wife’s had enough but I tell that I can’t see something so close, so doable, and not continue the journey to the top. So I leave my pack with her and travel ultralight to the summit, where I snap a few pics, before enjoying a theological conversation all the way back to the hut with a Jewish mystic who works for ATT by day, but whose passion is teaching meditation. It was a delightful hike, and I was glad I summited because the journey revealed the relationship between seeing and endurance. Had the top been shrouded in fog I, not knowing the area or the terrain, would have turned for home. Seeing, it turns out, is mighty important.
Jesus said, “blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear” because here’s the truth of it: without seeing where we’re going, we’ll quit – all of us will. I saw the top and knew I had to be there (it can be a dangerous addiction, these summits, but that’s for another post). The marathoner sees, with his mind’s eye, the finish line. The visionary sees a great search engine, or the notion that people can maintain friendships online. The young married couple see themselves walking, hand in hand, around the lake by their house long after their “not yet born” children have grown. There’s always vision: that’s the way of it! And vision is nothing more than the capacity to keep seeing!
So here are some principles about seeing, enduring, and how they’re related.
1. We’ll all need endurance. It doesn’t matter if it’s climbing a little hill like Lafayette, or a real mountain like Rainier, the fact is that step one is always easier than step 8,423. New commitment to Christ: easy. Wedding day: Cake (literally). It’s discipleship, marriage, continuing to show up for the long haul, for the seemingly boring Tuesdays of life, that enflame disillusionment. We all feel like quitting some days. What keeps us going, though, is the same for the mountaineer, as the married man, as the person walking with Jesus: endurance. The Bible says it’s for everyone.
2. Vision begats endurance. Catch the vision, and you’ll endure. Get stuck in the fog, and you’ll get lost, discouraged, afraid. You’ll either wander through life without a sense of direction, or you’ll stay stuck somewhere3. Vision requires looking. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is II Cor. 3:16-18, because it tells me that I need to “turn” and then “behold” God’s glory. The turning to Christ, implies a turning away from other things that hold our gaze. If my life’s consumed with the myriad of distractions that constantly fight for my attention, then I can go for a day, a week, a month – without really looking for Christ, his message, comfort, glory, power, or reign in my life. “What shall we eat, drink, wear? What shall we watch? Where shall we dance, or go for vacation? Who’s on American Idol? What silly thing did Harry Reid or Michelle Bachmann say today? Why is the paint on my house peeling after only two years? Why is school starting so soon? Why am I single? Why am I married? Why am I struggling with eating, or sex? Why do I sleep too much?” Or… maybe you’re religious: “Why is Rob Bell a universalist? (but you don’t know he is). Why is my church so small?, or Why aren’t other churches great, and pure, and reaching people for Jesus like mine? Why do I have four church events this week? Why don’t I witness more? Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? How old is the earth?” Feeling foggy yet? Me too!
Paul, on the other hand, advocated and demonstrate a laser like focus on the summit. He foresaw a day when God’s good reign would change everything: Every. Single. Atom. The universe will be saturated with the glory of Christ, and our calling, until then, is to let that saturation begin – filling us, so that we overflow with the presence of Jesus.
4. Don’t limit vision to Bible reading. Vision comes from revelation, and revelation must certainly come from the Bible. We all need our coffee with God. But Hebrews 12 reminds me that vision also comes from the lives of others, called the “cloud of witnesses”. Jim Elliot taught me about total commitment. Sophie Scholl taught me about standing up to evil and lies with courage and grace, taught me to reject the lie that I’m “too young” or “too simple” or too anything else. The staff in New Hampshire taught me about service this summer. My friends at HIM teach me about leading with grace, and being passionate for families. Paul Brand taught me about simplicity and service. I’m out of time, but not out names. You get the point. Who inspires you? Find them, and let them shape your vision, along with the revelation you get during your coffee with God. I need all of it and more, and when I see – I endure.
5. If vision begats endurance, endurance strengthens endurance. There’s no way I’m going to the hut, and not going to the top. There’s no way I’m investing 10 years in this marriage and not making it to 11. There’s no way I’m leaving the church I lead – not now, not in the middle of the story. When I’m in the mountains, I sometimes say, with Peter, “Jesus, let’s just chill here for a while”. But no, it can’t be that way. There’s a vision – to make the invisible God visible in my city, my marriage, my world. So down we go, to the valley. But we’ve climbed. We’ve seen. And we’ll never be the same.
Thanks be to you O God
For the saints around us who reflect your glory, who are passionate in their love, humble in their service, courageous in their convictions. Grant that we might see your vision with greater clarity for having been with them. Grant us eyes to see your glory in creation, in trials, in your Word. And seeing where you’re taking us, grant us the endurance to go there. Step by step by step by step….until the very top. Glory to you!
What hinders you from seeing and having vision? What helps?
In contrast, here’s Paul