Originally published Sunday, 28 August 2016.
I still remember the moment when I first glimpsed the Rocky Mountains. I was sixteen and joined a group of friends from my church on a journey from the east coast to Colorado. We drove for hours and hours from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., past cities and small towns, through the farms and plains of the Midwest (and strange features called buttes), until finally out of nowhere rocky peaks jutted out from the flat pasture that had been our roadside companion for what seemed like days on end.
It was an extraordinary sight, like nothing I had seen before. The Appalachians were my only prior mountain experience and in comparison, the Appalachians were like gentle rolling hills. But we were still hours away. Even though the Rocky Mountains seemed so big and magnificent from our position on the road, we still had a long drive before we actually got there.
Imagine if we had stopped at that point in our journey and said, "Well, we've seen the Rocky's. Let turn around and head back." It would have been crazy. Sure, we saw the Rocky's, but from a distance. We hadn't truly seen them. We hadn't been up close to see the jagged peaks. We hadn't walked its trails. We hadn't camped on its ground or smelled its flowers. We hadn't felt our lungs struggle for oxygen as we increased in altitude.
To turn around at first glance and say we had seen the Rocky's would have been like saying we had been to a state simply because we had flown to an airport in the state and made a connection there before going on our way.
As crazy as that all sounds, we often respond that way to knowing God and his word. We step back and take in the big picture and think we know all there is to know. We are satisfied with merely a taste of who God is and then we think that's all we need. We are content with never going deeper and further in our knowledge of God. Like viewing the mountains from a distance, we learn a few things about him and then move on.
On that trip to the Rocky's we saw the mountains up close. We drove to the top and saw the view from 14,000 feet. We camped in Estes Park and hiked from the bottom to the top, experiencing each change in elevation and in ecology. We saw the wild flowers in the tundra and the marmots scamper across the rocky terrain. Then we saw the mountains from the bottom, in a river raft, as we moved swiftly through the canyon over swirling, foaming white water. At the end of that trip, I felt like I had truly experienced the Colorado Rocky's.
We can't say we've been somewhere if we've only viewed it from a distance. We can't say we are friends with someone if we've never spent time with them. We can't say that we love someone if we don't even know what matters to them. And we can't say that we know God if don't bother to be in his presence. If we don't take time to read what he has written to us and respond to it in prayer. If we don't taste and see that he is good.
There is more to know of God than we could ever know in a lifetime. Even in eternity, we'll never plumb the depths of his magnificence. Even so, we shouldn't hold back on learning about him now. Paul prayed for the Ephesians, that they "may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (3:18-19). This ought to be our prayer as well. May we never be satisfied with just a cursory glance from afar, rather may we always yearn and seek to know the breadth, length, height, and depth of our Savior God.