The key to clarity lies in front of you, on the other side of the veil.
This post was adapted from a message given by Michael Taylor,
a preacher at Grandview Christian Assembly
I took my six-year-old son, Gideon, camping this last summer. We went for a night at my grandma’s house, since she has a little bit of wooded land. It brought back a lot of my own childhood memories. Nothing was better than spending time at my Grandma’s house, exploring the woods, swimming in a little pool nearby, and my personal favorite—a cookie jar that never seemed to run out. I was excited to share all this with Gideon. But he didn’t seem to catch on. The woods were just a place to him, and the possibility of smores over our campfire was a lot more enticing than Grandma’s cookies.
I wondered if the perfect days of my youth weren’t really all they were cracked up to be.
In fact, I remembered there were plenty of times at Grandma’s house when I was plain bored. Being a child has its own anxieties, and it feels like you’re constantly being told no. There are restrictions, rules, and punishments. Memory tends to be selective, forgetting those unpleasant things.
I feel like 2020 is a repeat of this. I’ve heard countless times people referring to “When things go back to normal.” There’s an assumption that if life would just return to the way it was, then everything would be perfect, like they were in 2019. But when I think back to 2019, I don’t remember perfection. And ironically, some of the “problems” that year got solved this year. How many people said they didn’t get to spend enough time with their family, eating at home, and being involved with their kids? Well, we got those things in 2020 a lot more than we counted on.
Even if life was clicking on all cylinders in 2019, we don’t want to simply go backward to it. We want to look forward, knowing we are different today, more spiritually mature, and knowing there is more ahead, not behind.
If we want the fog of the present to lift, the only effective way for it to happen is to turn to the Lord and behold his glory.
The first phrase of Second Corinthians 3:12 is highly instructive: “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” We, as Christians, should have a hope in Jesus Christ who has died for us, resurrected for us, and brought life to us through his Spirit. That is what we should have our eyes set upon.
In contrast, Paul draws from the Old Testament in verses 13-15, saying our boldness is “not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened, for to this day when they read the old Covenant, the same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart.” Three times the word veil appears in these verses. A veil creates a foggy view of things. You can’t see through it clearly.
Moses put a literal veil over his face because the people were afraid of the glory of God that was shining on his face. They couldn’t see through it. That fact perfectly characterized them. God had delivered his people from slavery, and while in the desert, they were supposed to learn how to trust Him, but Exodus describes them as a “stiff-necked people” (Ex. 32:9, 33:3, et. al.).
Time after time, they find themselves in foggy situations, they can’t navigate. When they were thirsty, or hungry, they grumbled against God. They repeated the cycle time after time. God provided for them, and based upon these caring experiences, He wanted them to learn to trust and rely on Him. But caught up in a fog of personal confusion, they not only didn’t learn, but romanticized their past in Egypt. As they reminisced about the meat pots, and bread, and garlic, they were saying it would be better to go back into literal slavery than to trust God.
Fixating on the past is not an effective way through the fog. Paul tells us here that the only way through unclear situations is by the veil being taken away in Christ. But even “to this day” (v. 15), a peculiar unclarity persists among God’s people. It is only “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (v. 16). The change then, is one of attitude, of turning, of repentance. In verse 17, Paul adds, “now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Truly, one way to tell if you’ve been confused by inward murkiness is whether you are free or not. A lot of people in the current time feel trapped in anxiety and irritation that won’t go away, not to mention unfair circumstances. But freedom not only means relief from those things, but freedom to know the Lord, sit in his presence, and be content to experience his joy.
Verse 18 continues, “we all with unveiled face beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of Glory to another, for this comes from the Lord who is the spirit.” When the veil is gone, we are free to behold the glory of the Lord, and when we behold the glory of the Lord, it has a transformative impact upon us.
“Beholding” is a long, sustained look that results in our reflecting what we see. When we fix our eyes on things, that is, spend time looking at them, we start to reflect them. Why? Because we begin to look like them, for better or for worse. It works this way as we behold Jesus, and much more so because the power of the Holy Spirit is at work.
Turn. Veil removed. Behold and reflect. Glory of the Lord. Transformed. This is the pathway out of the fog, and when that fog lifts.
The author, Malcolm Gladwell, mentioned in one of his books a fellow named Gary Cohn. As something of a problem child, his mother was worried that he was not going to make it. She basically told him she’d be happy if he could at least graduate high school and drive a truck. Cohn struggled through, and got himself a simple job, but then decided he wanted to go to Wall Street, where the action was. Arriving there, he saw an important looking businessman running out of a building, who was telling his assistant, “I’ve got to get to LaGuardia!”
Cohn saw his chance. He approached the businessman, and told him, “I’m going to LaGuardia, too. Want to share a cab?” Cohn figured he had a one hour window of opportunity with the man to convince him to give him a job. The man, in fact, was a Wall Street big shot who was starting to get involved in something called options trading, but also admitted he didn’t know much about it. “Would you happen to know anything about it?” he asked Cohn. “Why, yes,” Cohn answered, and went on to tell the man he could help him with anything he needed. By the end of the cab ride, Cohn had been offered a job interview.
He immediately went home, got a text book on options trading (because he knew nothing about it), and started reading it. His pace was painstakingly slow, because it took him two or three times longer than normal to read and comprehend. Eventually, armed with knowledge, he went out, nailed the interview, made a ton of money, and did so great a job, he got promoted, repeatedly. Cohn transitioned to the big banks, and then finally became president of Goldman Sachs.
Gladwell highlights Gary Cohn, because Cohn had dyslexia. And perhaps, maybe the man rose to the height of his profession, not in spite of his condition, but because of it. Dyslexia, for example, forced Cohn to focus and develop study skills that might have otherwise laid dormant in him. Even knowing this, he would never have asked for such a hardship. The truth is, we don’t get to choose our most serious challenges. They often arrive in our laps.
Think about this fact in the context of 2020. None of us would have chosen Covid-19. Nonetheless, here it is. The biggest question is how we’ll continue to respond to it. If we choose to fixate upon the circumstances, beholding and reflecting them, we’ll find ourselves living in the daily statistics, and the constant news cycle. Worse, we could behold and reflect the political landscape with its outrage. We’ll grow spiritually confused and weary of it all, wishing for the good old days to come back, when it is precisely these present days that are setting us up for a deeper beholding of the glory of God.
Our current drudgery might cause us to learn and grow in ways that we could have never imagined, to exercise spiritual muscles we didn’t know we had. Maybe it’s time to learn deeper things about the grace, kindness, and mercy of God, digging into uncomfortable things in the name of Christ. This unveiling unto glory ultimately does more to blow the fog away than anything else.
Yes, it might involve getting back to reading the Bible on a daily basis. Maybe it involves some truly focused prayer, or short but serious devotionals. It could be time to do the difficult thing the Lord has been telling you to do, like reaching out to that person with encouragement, or maybe even, a word of exhortation.
Whatever the case may be, don’t forget the core issues that give them power: turning your heart to Christ, and beholding His glory.
Therein lies clarity.
Image credit: Robert Conley