~ The Deep Things of God ~
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But…the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
~I Corinthians 2:9-10
Dear Members and Friends,
For years, we’ve kept a family membership at the Carnegie Museum in Oakland. Of course, it claims to be two separate museums—one for art and another for natural history—but to me, it’s really just one vast cave of wonders with dinosaur bones, and beautiful rocks, and sculptures, and paintings, and ancient taxidermy. The curators work hard to switch out displays and create a fresh experience each time you visit the place. Secretly, though, I’m not always interested in new discoveries when I go there. One of my favorite things about the museum is in seeing the same old things at a different time and place in my life. Some of the exhibits haven’t changed since I was a kid on class field trips. It’s still got all the same old bronze age artifacts and mummified grizzly bears. In fact, it sort of threw me for a loop when they renovated the Hall of Dinosaurs a few years ago. As a child, I loved dinosaurs, and so it felt like a real part of my history was being obliterated. The dark murals in the old hall were really wonderful. They showed toothy sea monsters thrashing angrily in troubled waves. The skies overhead were menacing and gray and infested with vicious pterodactyls, swooping, grimacing, glaring. Those murals—painted in the middle of the last century—are all gone now, but they did much to shape my childish imagination. And I’m sure they instilled in me a lifelong fear of murky water. Now, when I visit the new-and-much-improved Hall of Dinosaurs, with its bigger, brighter, less frightening murals, I always feel a tiny tinge of disappointment. And yet, no matter how many times I go to that same old museum, I always discover things I’d never seen before.
Because my daughters and I spent a night in the museum, years ago, I happen to know that the polished public areas are only the tip of the iceberg. Behind the murals and marble pillars, there lies an immense network of unseen places: classrooms, corridors, offices, laboratories, and big spooky storage areas where undisplayed treasures are kept. On our overnight tour, we were taken to the bizarre reptile room, a three-story depot where thousands of snakes, lizards, and amphibians are kept in pickle jars. (A Boy Scout on our tour had an anxiety attack and had to be led away from all the dead serpents!) I once discovered a secret locked room there in the museum, a smallish room all made of inlaid marble, ornately carved, and felt like I’d wandered into the Palace of Versailles. But now, each time I return, that little room is gone like Brigadoon. I’m not even sure which door leads to it.
It’s that recurring sense of wonder that I like, the looming possibility of new discoveries, even in the same old place. In fact, one of my favorite children’s books is The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, by Chris Van Allsburg. Like a lot of that author’s books, it’s a little bit somber for kids. And though the story is good, it’s not spectacular. A boy is dog-sitting a mischievous animal, who gets away and disappears into the vast gardens of a retired, dog-hating magician, Abdul Gasazi. The magician invites the boy into his dark mansion and tells him that he turned his dog into a duck. The dog-sitter goes home heartbroken, only to discover the dog waiting for him. What I like most about the book is its pictures. Each one suggests more than meets the eye. When the poor boy is standing before Gasazi inside the mysterious mansion, hat in hand, the magician stares off into the distance, blowing smoke rings with his cigar, and there’s a shadowy doorway in the background. It makes the reader wonder what’s back there, hidden away in all that inky gloom.
Read the Scripture passage at the top of this page. Pete Fenton’s family recently selected it for his memorial service. It reminds us of a great truth: One of the main functions of faith—and of weekly worship—is to make you aware that there’s more to your life than meets the eye. There are mysteries and wonders hidden just beneath the surface of your life. Even amid the dull routines of living, there are depths of joy, and beauty, and meaning that are just waiting to be discovered. Sometimes even the most familiar things can be seen anew.
In Christ’s Peace,