The long view

How many years have I celebrated this vista without stopping to capture it?

At least fifteen. But there’s a good reason. There’s not much shoulder on this winding, somewhat busy road (for back country PA) on the way to Penn State.  With all four of my kids having selected that university, I've driven past this view many, many times.

But today, I have pulled my car into the long grass, climbed the slight ridge and am trying to capture the beauty of the far hills. Though my mind tells me that the road continues through the forest, my eyes suggest that I look at untouched wilderness. “You just passed a sprawling gymnastics/skateboard complex!” replies my mind, exasperated.

Shut up, brain. Let me have this moment.

I have been thinking lately about long views. A close friend moved recently from my state to New England, where he lives remotely, closed in by forest. I asked him what he misses about Pennsylvania. “Seeing the horizon,” was his answer.

So much of our life is spent looking at the thing right in front of us. The patch of sky above. The next block of road ahead. Our screens. Our offices.

I expect not many of your offices have a view like this. When I support a meeting in a high floor of a skyscraper, I often take a shot out of the window and text it to my wife, a middle school teacher, with the message, “This is my view today.”

One time, I had a return text with a minute. “This is MY view today.” It made me laugh. But it was a good reminder of how special such exalted vistas are.

We need a far horizon, like Emerson said. More than for our eyes – for our souls. We need to constantly push the limits of our perspective, particularly of God's love.  Paul prays for the Ephesians to have such a horizon-expanding vision:

(That you) 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. (Ephesians 3:18–19)

So here are three ways I think we can widen our spiritual landscape:

Worship:

When we lift our heart and mind to consider the Lord, we enlarge the scope of our lives, touching on his greatness and the eternal span of his Kingdom.

Global perspective:

Understanding how God is at work in the lives of believers across geographic and cultural boundaries puts our little corner of experience into a bigger context.   God’s work in the world is much bigger and more complex than we often realize.

Historical connection:

Reading the words, hymns and prayers of Christians who have gone before us keeps us from thinking that we, in this moment, have the biggest and brightest version of worship and practice.

The downside of seeing horizons is that it makes us feel smaller. But how healthy that is! It’s a wonderful first step toward communing with God. Is it any wonder that grand vistas draw us quickly into prayer and worship?

I’ll let Ambrose, a church leader who lived in the 4th century, add the prayer today – a wonderful, long view of how the gospel has been changing hearts for centuries.

Lord, who has mercy upon all, take away from me my sins, and mercifully kindle in me the fire of thy Holy Spirit. Take away from me the heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh, a heart to love and adore thee, a heart to delight in thee, to follow and to enjoy thee, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Have thoughts on this? Let me know!

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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