“Jesus the anthem of my heart. Jesus, the anchor of my soul. I’m overwhelmed by all You are. Oh how I love You.” These lyrics come from “Anthem” by Phil Wickham. Inspired lyrics, but they come with a question: “Is the anthem of MY heart Jesus?”
Reflecting on this song, I was drawn to a trip that I took my senior year of college (2007). A group of guys and I went on a mission trip to Alaska but before we dove into the mission work, we spent three days hiking and camping. The beauty of Alaska in October was both unexpected and overwhelming. There is no way I could do it justice with words or even with pictures, of which I have many. The first day we hiked up a mountain to see an incredible view of Anchorage and the surrounding area. The second and third days we backpacked in a little ways and spent the night. What we found as we explored was more magical than “The Chronicles of Narnia” and more alive than the movie world of “Avatar.”
An interesting thing about hiking though, to really see something requires multiple perspectives. You need to see it from a distance to get the big picture. You have to stand back to take in a mountain, but that distance does not give you the full picture, it gives you the big picture. You also have to climb, you have to look at the trees and feel the rocks, you have to stop to see the flowers growing in the under brush and breathe in the smell of the mountain. Taking in a mountain requires both perspectives.
Even then, you’re still going to miss things. That’s where the community comes in to play. One of the other guys spotted a cow moose in the distance, I spotted place to get water. Our individual experience was enhanced and improved by the experience of our community.
I fear that part of the reason many even in the church cannot sing, “Jesus the anthem of my heart,” is because they only have the experience of others when it comes to God. They depend on the pastor and maybe a Bible study teacher to show them pictures, as if they can really know God through someone else’s pictures. There is no diving into the Bible on their own, where they explore the “mountain.” They never fall madly in love with God, because they are dependent on the pictures someone else painted.
This does not mean that there is no value in sermons or Bible studies. We need others’ perspectives. God is far greater we could ever comprehend even collectively. We need our faith community so that they can help us see. 1 Timothy 4:6 (NIV84) says: “If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus.” Our pastors and teachers are charged with pointing things out to the church. God know that we need the perspectives of others believers and of good Christian teachers. But you need to explore on your own. You will never know the mountain unless you take a hike.
Photo from pixabay.com.