Eugene Peterson once told a story of a group of men and women who grew up in, of all places, a warehouse. This was their life context, one without exits. There were, however, windows up above, the panes covered with years of thick dust—so no one ever bothered to look out. After all, people were relatively comfortable with their immediate setting—until one day.
Contrary to those with heads down, about their daily business, a curious child looked up one morning and noticed the drab and dark panes. He decided to drag a footstool over and scrape away the grime. Suddenly, the child saw a world beyond his small, darkened one—an immense sky, a world full of brilliant colors, and people devoted to loving one another. A world that compelled him to find a way out.
I was thinking about this story earlier today as I rushed through my black and white world. Mask on, dutifully following the one-way signs at the store. Checkers were curt and people kept their distance. This following the endless news cycle of mindless mobs tearing down statues, the Coronavirus surge, and spineless leaders. Will anyone stand up? And then this headline in the WSJ today: “The Covid 15 Have Made Our Clothes Too Tight.” Pandemic-induced stress-eating has taken a toll on waists. Things are literally splitting apart.
It’s life in a quarantined warehouse with few, if any exits, and not a lot of light. Unless you rub away the dirt of unbelief and look out the windows. I found one of them this week. I have been working my way through one of those back alleys of God’s Word—where we seldom pass. You might remember it. Back there in the book of 2 Kings, often found to be the clean pages of Scripture. There is something mysterious, even captivating about this Old Testament story. It always pulls me in and refreshes my imagination.
Like our world, the context suggests that things were coming apart at the seams. It was a season of lawlessness. Global threats and inept leadership allowed fear to set in. Like today, people began to ask, “What are we to do?” And then, someone chipped away the dirt and let in the light. A prophetic voice, a.k.a. a troubler of the settled, entrenched, and dominant world, stood up and declared “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And then he prayed that others could see as he sees—that if you look hard enough, you will find a world that transcends your imagination–one full of color. Those vacant hills are actually full of horses with chariots and fire. (6:17).
Could it be that, in a similar way, we are missing what is actual? Are we letting the headlines blind us to the larger spiritual realities surrounding us? Have we succumbed to believe that only the visible things are real? That the current noise dominating the airwaves has a certain authority that wishes to conform us to its anger? That things are hopeless and going to hell?
We forget, as Leithart puts it, that we have to press through a crowd of angels every time we move; that a small angelic deployment runs ahead of us into every danger; and that we disturb an angel every time we move. And because we forget, we cannot seem to see beyond our own confined world—let alone out and beyond and into the larger reality of what God is doing.
Paul said it best. We walk by faith, not by sight. This is what should define us. There is a King who reigns with perfect mercy and justice. A God who is closer to us than we are to ourselves, one who is wise and good and powerful. And the hills, like the rest of the world, is filled with his presence.