When I was young my family sometimes camped at the foot of New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington. One day we drove the auto road to the summit. Though hot and muggy down below, the air was cool up top. Decades later, Glenna and I returned, together with our own two sons. We decided that instead of driving, we would hike up. You see so much more when you do that. The mountain, the trees, the clouds, the birds, the cascades in Peabody River. Encased in the cocoon of our car as kids, we had missed so much.
Last Sunday afternoon I kayaked off 58th St. After crashing through the breakers you no longer notice the chatter and clutter of the crowds on the beach. It’s you and the ocean—up close and personal. In our digital days, surrounded by screens, we run the risk of relinquishing experiencing reality.
The incarnation is God up close and personal. God used to speak to Israel through the prophets. But you can learn only so much through words. So “in these last days he has spoken to us in his son.” In Jesus we find God—visible, tangible, up close and personal, where we can see and understand. How close did he get? “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands we proclaim to you.”
Will we reciprocate, or try to keep God at arm’s length? He wants more: God walked the garden in the cool of the day calling, “Where are you?” You are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Yahweh used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.
What about the Bible? It is easy to drift along with a distant acquaintance, to re-translate Psalm 119:11 as “Thy word have I installed on my phone, that I might swipe through as someone reads.” How regularly do I sit with open Bible, no one else’s guidebook, but only a notebook, pen, and the Spirit of God, in order to probe and record what God is saying to me?
Come on! Does God really care about individuals? “To the one who overcomes I will give a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but the one who receives it.” God relating to us—up close and personally.