I lounge on a plastic chair, waiting for my egg rolls and moo shi pork to fry. Sweet aromas and chatter drift through the door from the tiny kitchen. Everything is tasty here, but the atmosphere is strictly American fast food, except for the lovely Chinese mural on the wall. My eye is drawn to a Shangri-La valley nestled among snowy peaks and watered by a high falls half hidden in mist. Over the drone of the pop cooler, I can faintly hear a wild call to mysterious places.
A rush of wonder, a dream of desire, a surprise of joy, the reawakening of never quite forgotten longings and yearnings for something far away from the dreary and familiar. Mountains and deserts, sky and sea, impossibly distant stars and impossibly empty space, the vast and varied handiwork of an extravagant artist. This is the magnificent side of God.
But in this mural, I gaze at the far away grandeur through the branches of a tree on a foreground ridge. At one side, a pair of lovely birds browse peacefully for food among the wildflowers and tall grass. This scene is so different. I am in this part of the picture. I can hear the gentle rustle of the birds and the breeze; I can smell the blossoms and touch the soft grass and the rough bark.
Wonder and mystery call from this artistry too. The delicate petals of a flower, the colorful mosaic of the bird’s feathery coat, the growing, breathing, changing exuberance of life around and in me whispers different words about the creator. He is personal, he loves, he cares… he is here. This is the intimate side of God.
I have heard his still, small voice. I have felt his tenderness, his gentle touch on my heart. He is my faithful friend, my devoted Father, my counselor and confidant. And yet, I scarcely know him. The depths of God are far beyond me, like the distant, hidden valleys of the mural, and they call to me “Come, come further. Follow me, explore me, discover and experience me.” Yes, the call is immediate; it is only my lingering fear or laziness that restrains me from the next step. But the call is also a distant call to things still out of reach. It stirs the hope of things to be revealed in the age to come, when the fetters of this world are put aside and we fly away to him. God satisfies our longing to belong, to shelter under his wing in safety, to be loved right now, and at the same time he gives us new longings for the adventures we cannot begin to imagine. He knows all that we need to be whole and alive, and he is that all.