Beyond street lights

You know the sort of thing: hairs-on-the-back-of-you-neck moments, a reaction of elation/awe/joy that makes you feel that you see now everything in its right place: the small things are truly small and the great things are clearly great. These moments produce dreams, real dreams. Not the confusing dreams of the night or the wandering dreams of the day, but a consciously stirred picture of the future that fills you with hope and ambition, and maybe determination. Those who study the brain might have more information about this kind of phenomena, but it's the inspiration that interests me, the effect of the effect.

In case this sounds a bit odd, let me just clarify that I'm not talking about some kind of hallucinogenic experience, or a denial of daily life, which I am certain is to be lived for God's glory (Romans 12:1). But sometimes daily life can press in upon us so concertedly that everything else gets squeezed out. It's like we're working so hard in the valley that we forget that there are mountains around us to be stared at in wonder. For those of us who live in urban areas, nothing illustrates this better than street lights: they are a daily necessity but they hide the stars.

Although sin has polluted and corrupted us , we are still creatures made in God's image and likeness. That's the eternal God, remember, the infinite One. The writer of Ecclesiates saw this, in the midst of his despair, saying that God has "set eternity in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The here-and-now is not all there is, and if we are deceived into thinking it is we deny who we truly are, with the result that our lives lack the fullness, the eternal, that God made us for. Street lights illuminate the path before us but conceal the world above us.

One day, everyone who has put their trust in Jesus will see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12), and we will be with Him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17). When something here on earth brings our attention to this, we should delight in it and praise God for the promise it reminds us of. To switch back to the first metaphor, Christians are called to work in the valley but dream in the mountains, in the places that show the wildness and infinite possibilities of the Creator's power and providence.

I think this is a thoroughly biblical practice, because it encourages us to consider God, thus to worship Him, thus to share His greatness with those around us. In his joyful letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul writes, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8). So we should look for things that will help us do this.

For me, music is great trigger. Certain pieces stir and excite me so much that they take me out of the moment I'm in and stir within me thoughts and dreams about what could be. They're not always "worship music" but in touching something beautiful they stir my soul and they can be 'redeemed' for God's purposes! One such track that has got me going recently is the wonderfully-named, Hoppípolla by an Icelandic band called Sigur Rós. Its opening fragility builds to a crescendo of majesty, yet retains a very human voice throughout. Wonderfully, some people have added clips from the BBC's Planet Earth series to make a quite incredible video. It's well worth a look, let it stir your heart as you fuse biblical doctrines with a God-centred imagination. Psalm 19 begins, "The heavens [we'll include the earth too] declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork" And it concludes "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." You see, revelation leads to "the obedience that comes from faith" (Romans 1:5). I'd encourage you to find your own ways to see beyond the street lights; they're important but there is more to see than what they show.