Do you know what I mean? When something seems too beautiful to be real? In this case: look at the cobalt sky with its thin lip of white clouds. The high waterfall hidden in shadow, the drifting vapor mirroring the angle of the descending shade. The sweep of the bare rocks on the upper right. The sunlight catching the swath of brilliant green beneath it on the shore.
Everything looks perfectly placed, as if composed by a landscape painter.
This was our second choice. My wife and I are here at Taughannock Falls in New York because the more famous Watkins Glen closed due to all the recent rain. A kind, local man pointed us toward this park instead.
And it does not disappoint. Even when we leave and drive to downtown Corning to get lunch, I can’t stop thinking of its unreal beauty.
Before we leave Corning, we wander into an art museum. It’s here that my pondering goes deeper. For on the walls are idealized waterfalls, carefully crafted to capture magnificence. And all this nudges me toward something Scripture says about copies.
They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. (Hebrews 8:5 - ESV)
…things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Col. 2:17, NASB)
These speak specifically about how Old Testament laws and observances are like the shadow that point to the solid object of Christ. I love that metaphor of form and shadow and will come back to it sometime.
Today, though, I’m thinking more about the concept of copies and reality. There are so many ideals that are put forth in the public arena: model spouses, citizens, parents – the list is endless. No one matches up to these, but we endlessly critique based on them.
Paul sets forth an ideal in Philippians 4:8. He calls us to keep raising our thoughts toward what’s true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. So, I endeavor to seek out these things in the world around me. Some are easier concepts to find (the loveliness of a morning field, the admirable examples set by a caring friend). Some, like nobility and purity, can be trickier.
But today, I’m realizing that these are all, to use our metaphor, just a painting of a waterfall. The real waterfall is Christ. He embodies all these traits. These ideals are sketches. He is the solid reality they try to render.
At the top of the downtown building, we wander out onto a rooftop terrace. The view below is a far cry from the beauty of the falls. Or the exaltedness of Paul’s list. It reminds me that the world needs to see the reality of Jesus.
In a sense, we’re all artists and our lives are the canvases. The colors are the virtues above (as well as the fruit of the Spirit). But the subject is Christ.
May our renderings be true!
Lord, the beauty of these falls is just a hint of the glory you’ll reveal. You are the reality that we’re all trying to portray to the world. You are the original, we are just the copy. Make our lives an accurate canvas of who you are.
Reader: What did you see this week in the world around you that pointed you to Jesus? I’d love to hear about it!