We recently returned from our week in the mountains. The luggage is still unopened, the mail stacked perilously high, and the backyard pool is green with neglect. At breakfast, the middle child sighed and said, “I miss the waterfalls.” We answered him with our own sighs.
A great vacation is a rare and wonderful thing, but it exacts a high price: the unhappy return to everyday life.
Still, we remember the mountaintop views and know that it was worthwhile. We have seen something precious.
There is a mountain in North Carolina called Pisgah. It is named for the mountaintop on which Moses first saw the Promised Land, a fact which surprises me not at all. Hazy blue vistas and cool breezes are my idea of milk and honey, too.
While I watched my family slide down a waterfall in Pisgah Forest (a feat I was more than content to simply observe), I thought about that land Moses saw. I’ve been living on promises for a while now, and I considered the view from my own mountaintop.
And then I thought about promises themselves.
Why are promises the currency of our relationship with Him? From rainbows to revelations, it seems we can’t know God apart from his promises. Why is that?
In my own life, I’m usually confused about the value of a promise. So much so that I can never make up my mind whether I should promise some good thing to my kids or let them be surprised. When the grandparents told us they’d be setting up old bunk beds in the guest room for our Christmas visit, I knew it would be a better gift than anything Santa might bring.
But should I tell the kids? Should I wait to see their faces when they realize that their bunk-bed dreams have finally come true?
I decided to wait and let them be surprised and then promptly forgot my decision and, in a desperate attempt to distract them from their argument, their summer boredom, told them what they had to look forward to. Bunk beds! For you! At Grammy’s house!
Oh, wait, didn’t I mean that to be a surprise?
I promised them bunk beds. Why?
I did it in a moment of forgetfulness. I was tired of their grumbling. Why does God do it?
The truth is, I don’t know. I started writing this post and imagined I’d have it figured out a few paragraphs in. But, I don’t.
I do think that God’s promises reveal Him to be very humble in His love for us. My own love for my children is tinged with a lot more self interest. Give them something to look forward to so they stop bothering me? Let them be surprised so I have the fun of witnessing? Me, me, me.
But here is our God writing these incredible stories for us and, as if this weren’t enough, He is reassuring us again and again: you have nothing to fear, good things are in store for you, it all turns out well.
He is a writer who generously gives away the ending. In humility, He wants us to know that He’s not about to give us a surprise that rewrites the whole story.
He’s writing, creating, and taking us along for the ride. Showing us, through his many promises, what it will all add up to some day.
“Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’” (John 11: 40)
God’s promises are mountain views. They are a vision of what will be and what truly is. Most importantly, they are ours whether we’re standing on the mountain or walking through the valley.
“Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”
– from “Be Thou My Vision,”
8th century Irish hymn, translated by Mary Byrne (1905)