June 25th, 2012 by Kristi Stephens
Thursday evening I made my way to Orlando by air, ready to attend the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference.
There is something about air travel that makes me feel extremely small and insignificant.
Surrounded by throngs of people, herded unceremoniously and shoe-less through security, both I and my bags were scanned and peered into, my bottled water confiscated. I hurry through the airport, trying to look more confident than I am. My flight appears as one among hundreds on the terminal screen. At the gate I sit and wait for instruction, stand and wait for instruction, line up, file through a crowded plane, struggle to heave my bag (which seems to have gained a few pounds) into the compartment over my head. I sit down and wait, squeezed uncomfortably close to strangers who unintentionally knock into me with oversized carryons and generally invade my personal space.
I lean awkwardly, attempting to see out the window around the man at my elbow who is pretending I don’t exist.
And I see this.
What are we doing? Our plane that appeared so large and solid on the ground resembles a toy, hurtling and bouncing dizzyingly high above solid ground.
I fill my time with 1st and 2nd Samuel. Reading these narratives filled with the words and actions of people long dead (yet still alive!) reminds me of the brevity of life and the valuable and yet fleeting nature of my days – even as the turbulence does the same.
The next day in Orlando, I sit in a room with over 4,000 other women. I gaze around the room feeling small.
One small woman living one small life. Session by session, we are led to the mountain top to behold the glory of our dazzlingly beautiful, terrifyingly holy, untamed, relentless, mighty God who loves me with furious and irresistible love.
This smallness is nothing like the smallness of flying. This is the smallness of encountering the holy God on the mountain – finding yourself exposed in ways that no security scan can reveal. This is the holy God whose very presence causes mankind to tremble, causes Isaiah to cry out “I am undone!” The God who cannot be gazed upon even by the holy angelic creatures who surround His throne – they cover their faces to shield their eyes from His glory, cover their feet to conceal their lowliness.
And yet, He is the God who longs to dwell not just among us, but IN US. The God who relentlessly pursues us and woos us and draws us to Himself. The God who will one day bring us to our real home – where we will see His face.
This weekend was full and rich and profound. But it was time to climb back down the mountain.
Landing gear struck pavement with a jolt. Flight delays and throngs of people and crying children and concern for friends and dirty diapers awaited me. These tastes of the glory of God are glimpses of the eternal reality just beyond our sight. They beckon us to worship, to realize our smallness in light of His grandeur and be stunned once again at His sovereignty, holiness, and inexplicable grace.
He sends us, like Moses from Sinai, like the apostles from the mount of transfiguration, back down into the valley where trouble, distress, sorrow, danger await us. He sends us to be ministers of mercy, heralds of the larger reality glimpsed from the mountain. Moses left God’s holy presence, put his shoes back on his feet, and found the rest of his life filled with both breathtaking reminders of God’s presence as well as the exhausting and exasperating work of leading God’s people through barren wilderness.
Oh, that we would see and remember. We were made to worship Him, to delight in the treasure of His presence, to bask in the beautiful glimpses of His glory revealed around us. I am infinitesimally small before the thunderous God on His throne. And yet He is gracious to speak in a whisper, to call me to rest my smallness in the bigness of who He is, the incalculable price He freely paid to redeem my life from the miry pit.
Lord, I’m back on the ground again. My muddy shoes are back on and the altitude has changed. But please, oh please keep my heart on the mountain as I labor here in the valley. I pray with all my heart – come quickly, Lord Jesus.