“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to. But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.” (I John 3:1-3, The Message)
A few years ago, my wife and I were privileged to visit Yosemite Park. Until then I had only seen pictures of that famous place in travel books, showing waterfalls and granite spires as a backdrop for an autumn valley floor captured on a 3×5 card with a glossy finish – I had no idea! When we entered the park and drove into the valley it felt as though we were in the navel of something sacred. Bridal veil, the Merced River, Half Dome and Glacier Point all stood as silent witnesses to the immense power of God in creation. All around us we saw ancient water falling into pools below, and rivers flowing in horizontal calm while cold granite stood watch. There were coyote, fox, leaves the size of a baseball glove and the invisible smell of autumn. We witnessed color more vivid than we had imagined, and tall amber grass waving at us. As I lay down and stared at the blue granite walls through the waving, grassy field, Kitty walked over to me and asked what I was doing? ”Just trying to memorize this,” I replied.
I closed my eyes trying to imprint the images before me. Scenes like the snaking drive up to Glacier Point, and the wonderful symmetry of dropping temperature and ascending altitude. Mammoth trees rustled with the whistling wind as a red fox cut across our path – a reminder of the crossing culture of that place, and that we were not there first.
Eventually, we climbed to a large, volcanic-looking rock with eerie trees growing from its crown, and seemingly sat atop the world. Looking further, to the high Sierra and the snow that never melts, we talked of how we might describe this setting to our friends back home. Later, we also wondered how the early explorers reacted to this same scene and came across John Muir’s journal entry about his first summer in Yosemite. He had abandoned convention and headed out to the wilderness. One of his many dividends was that first breathtaking glance at the valley on July 15, 1869.
“Never before had I seen so glorious a landscape, so boundless an affluence of sublime mountain beauty. The most extravagant description I might give of this view to anyone who has not seen similar landscapes with his own eyes would not so much as hint at its grandeur and the spiritual glow that covered it.” (My First Summer In The Sierra. John Muir – Mariner/ Houghton Mifflin pp. 115)
That is like grace to me. It is as foreign as Yosemite, yet like that place it continually calls me and tells me I belong to it. I feel as though I have to tell everyone but when I open my mouth, words fail me. Still, the vision of it brings me courage to climb its heights once again and take in its grandeur.
I have decided that grace is more an atmosphere rather than a commodity. Grace is the code that opens the door to Father God. It is the ink that changes our status in the books of heaven and overwrites the word, stranger with friend, and orphan with son. Like the aroma of Yosemite’s autumn valley, grace is the fragrance of Heaven that God has caused to settle down among us.
John Muir, standing on Glacier Point and looking over into the lush beauty of Yosemite must have felt like Joshua and Caleb looking over into Canaan, the land they were promised. Jesus is that gracious land of promise to all those who trust in Him. Looking over into His abundance we are captured by grace and filled with courage.