The other day on my way to work, I was driving by a small railroad yard that I pass every morning. This particular morning was still cool from the chilly night before, but was being warmed by a quickly rising sun. The familiar location was blanketed by a lingering mist, lit up in a pale gold by the sun rising over the trees. Where I could have normally looked down the distant rail line slowly curving under a bridge was hidden from view by a veil of shimmering cloud. A usually drab and industrial scene was turned into a magical place. It kind of excited what’s left of a childlike imagination in me.
I think that may be what our whole world is like. It all seems pretty familiar most of the time. We grow accustomed to the colors and textures, the objects, noises, and sensations. And for as long as we choose to see it that way, or never think otherwise, it will probably remain so. Frustratingly familiar. Not magical. When we’re children, the world is still new and our propensity to delight in the monotonous keeps us unrelentingly interested. As we get older, we lose that talent and become increasingly hard to impress. Ravi Zacharias said something to the effect of ‘Only God is infinite and interesting enough to forever enthrall us.’
When we realize it’s in God we recover our truest sense of wonder, we start looking around for him among the familiar scenery. That’s why if we have the eyes for it (or when our eyes begin adjusting), we can sometimes see the bright golden mist between our realm and God’s. We can’t see very clearly, but we have hints about what could be there. The miracles and ministry of Jesus was full of examples of what God’s kingdom, His rule and reign, would look like when implemented in this world. N.T. Wright calls these not ‘snapshots’ of the future glory, but signposts pointing into that bright mist.
And notice it’s a mist, not a wall. The celtic traditions acknowledge what are known as “thin places,” places where the veil between heaven and earth are especially thin. Now I have precious little theology for that – and I barely have language for it – but it seems to me to be something complex and yet intuitive, untestable and yet undeniable. My theology allows for this because I recognize that God has made time, space, and matter, and has declared it “good” (à la Genesis 1), and that God has already begun the marriage of heaven and earth (à la the Incarnation), and that the joining of heaven and earth is the ultimate reality (à la Revelation 22). My reason allows for this because my experience demands it. I’ve been in thin places. So have you.
God’s reality isn’t a long way off. He’s no absentee landlord, occasionally looking down from somewhere way up in the sky to see how it’s going. God’s kingdom is near, just out of site in the mist, but within walking distance. This world is magical. It’s already full of the glory of God, diffused as the sunlight through the morning mist. Soon, though, that sunlight will triumphantly burn through the mist and illumine this world as never before.