Each day I opened my apartment door to a breathtaking close-up of Mount Fuji. Often I’d stand for minutes gazing at it, studying it: the timberline, the crevasses, the snow capped peak, when it wasn’t shrouded in clouds. The volcano towered over the coastal region, the land rising from sea level to over 12,300 feet in less than 40 miles.
From Fujinomiya where I lived, the mountain stood about 22 miles away, but it appeared to be “in the backyard,” affirming to me the scale of colossal things. Our Sun is 93 million miles away and still appears as a sizeable disk in the sky. Yet the Sun’s actual diameter is nearly 110 times the Earth’s diameter, like comparing the height of a nickel to a door. Beside it we would see nothing else but it.
I love mountains. What we sometimes don’t detect in beautiful photos is the scale of what we see. A panorama can easily feature a scene that might take 20 or 30 minutes to drive by car. A mountain snapshot may not convey how it takes climbers days and weeks to ascend that mountain.
Our spiritual journey compares. Do you see? Heaven looms before us; the kingdom comes. But this sojourn—sometimes joyful, sometimes sad, always enlightening—can make us long to be there already. Do you ever? We can see that the destination will be worthwhile, for its beauty we presently enjoy. But getting there, by many modes of crude travel, can be taxing; and occasionally what soars before us can be occluded by clouds or night.
Already, But Not Yet
In 20th century theology, the concept of “already, but not yet” describes living in the tension of Christ’s finished work and our final redemption in the next life. Already refers to aspects like our salvation and sanctification, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and God’s acts, like answers to prayer; but not yet reminds us of our struggle with sin and evil in this fallen world.
So though we travel through a gorgeous wilderness, moving forward to the summit, nevertheless, a wilderness it is. But God causes it to give refreshing along the way.
Embrace this journey. The tempter will come to make you turn back or change course. Don’t do it. After you’ve trod so far, so hard, who cares to have wasted their time by quitting? Further, the journey trains our expectation; the mountaineer’s body is toughened by the climb. And remember Jesus “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).
Press on! Never give up. Run because you already see that the end will be better than imagined. You’ll be glad you did.
If you haven’t read John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, you must. It is unforgettable and one of the most amazing pieces of literature of all time.