Have you stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon and marveled at the size, the grandeur, the immensity of it all?
We love moments such as these. That’s why you can take a major highway from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to the South Rim of the Canyon, passing a cluster of hotels and restaurants as you approach the big hole. We go for the wonder. We go to marvel. We want to look out over the expanse and have our everyday worries forcibly removed from our minds, if only temporarily. We want to see our kids forget about their phones and gasp. That’s why we go to the Grand Canyon.
Unless we go to the beach. How many bridges lead to how many rental properties on how many coastal islands in the Carolinas? I don’t know, but it is not enough. After we do battle on I-95 for a few hours, we want nothing more than to sit on the sand with a book in our hands and never look at the pages. We want to marvel. We live for moments such as these.
Eventually, you have to go home. They turn the lights off at the Grand Canyon right around sunset each day. Work is waiting for you impatiently, drumming its fingers on the desk at the office. You can’t stay at the beach forever.
Going to the park or the beach is wonderful, but ultimately insufficient. We want something more, something that will take our breath away. We need a permanent marvel, from which there is no recovery.
When I was a young teenager, I had an experience that can only be referred to as marvelous. Our church led a monthly worship service at a local nursing home. One particular Sunday afternoon I went with my parents to help. A few folks from the church choir would go to sing a few hymns and a Sunday school teacher would give a short devotion. All told, the worship service would not last 45 minutes. In fact, it would take longer than that to assemble the congregation. That was my job. I walked through the common areas of the building, asking each of the residents if they wanted to come to worship.
I will never forget an encounter I had with one such individual. He was in a wheelchair, and it was obvious to me that his entire body didn’t work well. I was young, and so this man looked like he couldn’t have been a day older than 137. There was nothing about him that I could envy as he sat in that chair unable to move. His very presence made me uncomfortable but I knew that I needed to ask him to go with me to the worship service, so I did. In reply, he told me that he was a retired pastor and his wife had recently passed away at the same facility.
And then the marvelous happened.
His eyes began to water and he said, “The only thing I am living for is to see Jesus.” With those words, he began to weep with tears of pain and glorious expectation. There existed a hope and a desire in this ancient man’s life that was greater than his wheelchair, greater than his surroundings and even greater than the smell of cleaning products in the nursing home’s common room. The expectation of seeing Jesus overwhelmed this man’s situation and gave him an unexpected vitality. He didn’t want the beach or the grand vista, or even to walk again. He wanted to see Jesus.
I had approached this soul thinking he needed my help, but in actuality, he needed nothing from me. I needed to hear what he had to say. And I did.
In 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul reminds the church that all of this life’s sufferings will be worth it when Jesus appears “on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:10 NIV)
On that day, Jesus will assemble his people from every tribe, nation, language, and generation before the throne and He will be glorified. On that day, we will marvel – not at the throne or the heavens, but at Him. He is what it is all about. That’s what the old man was saying to my younger self.
The deep longing we have to be amazed, to marvel, is why we drive to the Grand Canyon. There is more to this life than ourselves and our problems. We get that when we gaze across the canyon. But there is also more to this life than a week at the beach. The wonder we feel at the Canyon, or at Yosemite, or high in the Alps or the middle of the Caribbean all reflect an even greater source of wonder, our Creator/Redeemer Lord. He is the alpha and omega, the first and the last. When we see Him we will marvel, and the wheelchair and the hardships and the disappointments that populate this life will be overwhelmed by the ultimate Captain Marvel!
Today, I can not begin to contemplate seeing Jesus without tears running down my cheeks, just like the old man in the wheelchair. I want to see Him that badly. Until then I will go to the beach and plan a trip to the mountains. It the best I can do. Such places are mostly marvelous, yet my spirit longs for more.
Enjoy the beach this summer, but remember it is only an appetizer of empty calories compared with Who is to come.