With a deep breath, I put one foot in front of the other and began to run.
Ok, so it was a moderate jog (but with lots of effort).
The music in my earbuds set the pace, and I was determined to achieve a mile in a reasonable amount of time. I made sure to keep my eyes focused up and out, not on the sidewalk below. Soon, my heart was beating and my lungs were thirsty for more oxygen. “Can’t stop, won’t stop,” I told myself.
Step by step, minute by minute, song after song on my playlist….. until the little Map My Run voice said I reached a mile in twelve minutes and two seconds! I celebrated by allowing myself to walk and catch my breath as I turned around and headed the mile back. With a mix of walking and jogging, I soon found myself where I began, ready for a drink of water and some breakfast.
Did I mention this was the view?
Despite thirty minutes running along ocean cliffs, I barely glanced at the waves below. Dolphins could’ve been dancing through the glittering water, whales might have exhaled mist, and pelicans surely glided over the surface in expert formation….. and I was oblivious. I do vaguely recall the sweet smell of some sort of flower as I ventured face-first into a cloud of gnats. There was also some sort of bird calling near a bush on my return mile. I ran past a lighthouse and didn’t even look up into its weathered windows standing silent vigil over the channel as faithfully as if it were still in service.
I was surrounded by beauty and I missed it.
The tragedy is this is how most of us live daily, constantly absent from God’s glory around us.
When Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” I think He meant it in more than one way. Clearly, God’s plan for the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s death and resurrection were about to happen. But perhaps God’s kingdom is more complex that mere salvation. Could it be that the kingdom of God includes His creation and His will? His kingdom in a new heaven and earth is to come, sure, but it’s also here and now, at hand. (Book recommendation for more on this: The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard. It’s a bit dense, but very much worth your time.)
We are surrounded by the glory of God.
Just as I blindly ran through stunning creation with my eyes all but closed, we spend our days so focused on tasks and worries that it creates tunnel vision, blocking out the wonders and beauty. It’s in the sky and the wildflowers on the side of the freeway. It spills over from the love of a dog happy to see you when you walk in the door. The notes and rhythms of music coming from the radio are a gift. And every single person that crosses our path is a walking masterpiece, intricately and lovingly handmade by our Heavenly Father. Like moving a prism in light to reveal more rainbows, if we could see our neighbor through God’s eyes, every new angle would reveal another treasure. However, we run right past it all, focused on how hard our muscles are working and seeing only the mile marker ahead.
There is extreme danger in running through life with tunnel vision. It’s more than missing the surrounding delights. We miss the urgent messages from God intended to reach our ears with necessary frequency:
“I am with you. I love you.”
When it feels like our prayers are unheard and that God is far away and unreachable, a little bit of terror creeps in, like a small child separated from a parent in a crowd. I imagine God reaching over, removing the headphones from our ears, and softly reminding us that He’s right here. In those moments when He catches our attention, will we pause the playlist and listen, or turn it up so we don’t lose our goal-seeking pace?
The kingdom of God is at hand. The glory of the Lord is all around us. When we miss it, it isn’t because it isn’t there, but because we aren’t looking. We aren’t seeing. After sharing a parable with a crowd, Jesus spelled out its meaning to His disciples. He said that their eyes and ears were blessed because they saw and heard. He reminded them of Isaiah’s description of rebellious Israel, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes” (Matthew 13:15a).
Let’s open our eyes, disciples, and witness the glorious kingdom of God.