In visiting our daughter recently in Colorado, we took a drive through a canyon road. If you’ve ever done any driving in the mountains, you are familiar with switchbacks. Here’s the definition: “switchback” – a 180° bend in a road or path, especially one leading up the side of a mountain; a road, path, or railroad with alternate sharp ascents and descents. I would also add, that switchbacks usually have overlooks, vistas with a scenic view. They are really the only way to make it up and down the geography of the mountains. I find a similar principle in navigating the seasons of my life. It’s impossible to opt out of those “180’s” , unless we cease from making the journey altogether.
To mix in one more metaphor, consider sailing a boat into the wind. I do understand that if the wind is to my back, the sails will easily propel the boat forward. But what about the return journey when the wind is in my face? It’s called “windward sailing.” A sailor intending to travel windward toward a point exactly in line with the direction of the wind will have to zigzag back and forth to reach its target. Using this “tacking” technique, and traveling at an angle as close to the wind’s direction as possible, sailors can reach a point in any direction, regardless of the direction of wind. Windward sailing –switchbacks on water!
Okay, mountains are in the Bible, and I suppose sailing is too, considering the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. But switchbacks? Let’s go to a few Bible passages, after which I will hopefully make a profitable point or two.
“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:16-18 As a young man of twenty-one, I turned to Christ, doing the proverbial “180” in my life’s direction and values. When we turn towards the Lord, veils are removed and we encounter His glory. Ascending glory is ongoing, and faithful turning will insure that our hearts will never be veiled from Him again.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Cor. 4:7-9 I can feel the pendulum swing in Paul’s words. Remember our definition: sharp ascents and descents. Yes, I am weak, no surprise there. This is the necessary backdrop, to showcase the power of God and to keep our hearts humble.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:16-18 Plenty of switchbacks in this passage. Perhaps the sharpest turn of all is shifting my eyes from what I’m already seeing and feeling, to align my vision unto a transcendent focus. Depending on the circumstances, this can occur multiple times in a day.
I must insert this caution. One of the enemy’s strategies is to deceive us into thinking that we aren’t making any progress in life. Truth is, we DO fight the same battles over and over again. But if we have faithfully followed the Lord to the best of our ability, we HAVE ascended to a higher level, a greater glory. We are NOT stuck at the same level. Same type of battle perhaps, but not the same location. By God’s grace, we can rise above the devastating plight of feeling hopeless.
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling…For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident…So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” 2 Cor. 5:1-9
The groan, the ache, to be clothed with a heavenly garment, will be our companion on this journey. It’s a road of desire, the only one without corruption to be found in this life. At times bittersweet, but a guarantee that each unveiling of the One we follow, will lead us to a panoramic view that only gets better over time.