Posted by: Philip Rushton | February 14, 2011

Epiphany at Cannon Beach

The apostle Paul reminds us that we see God through a glass darkly. What he means is that we struggle to fully comprehend the depths of God’s love. It is true, I think, that we often fail to live in light of the good news we read in scripture. Yet, every once and a while it is as if God’s truth breaks through the haziness of my human ignorance, and for a moment I see how much he loves our world.

This weekend I had such an epiphany. On Sunday morning I was walking along Cannon Beach reading over my sermon notes in preparation for our service at the couples retreat. My sermon was based on James 3. In this passage James points out a great contradiction in the Christian life. He says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.” The focus of my message was on how our ability to truly love other people is to realize that they are made in God’s image.

What struck me as I was walking along the beach is that God thinks that human beings are more beautiful, more profound, and more worthy of our awe than the landscape that I was looking out at. All weekend I was enamored by the beauty of Cannon Beach, and rightly so. The vast ocean, the miles of sand, and the haystack rock all illustrate the power and the beauty of God. Yet, I had this sudden realization that it was contradictory for me to be enamored by this landscape and while overlooking the beauty of the people in my life. I realized that God’s real masterpiece, the creation that he is most proud of is the human race. I suddenly understood that it is my spouse, my friends, and even those who make life difficult that deserve to be looked upon with awe and wonder, for God tells us that he created them in his own image.

This reminded me of an epiphany that Thomas Merton had one day when he was walking the streets of Louisville. Thomas Merton was an important spiritual writer and contemplative of the 20th century. He writes:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers . . . It was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…

– Thomas Merton Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

How different our relationships would be if we could see people as God sees them. As I suggested on Sunday, perhaps we ought to pause once and a while and read other people into Psalm 139:13. Perhaps we would be able to love others better if we realized that God, “created their inmost being, you knit them together in their mothers womb; I praise you because they are fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful I know that full well.”

As C.S. Lewis reminds us, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit.”

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