Last month Claire and I went on a vacation along with our son Matt to Yosemite National Park. Prior to our going, we had learned a lot about Yosemite and seen many images of it from the Ken Burn’s documentary on the National Parks. As a result, we were eager to see the majestic mountains and amazing rock formations. The first afternoon when we arrived, we took the advice of the park ranger and visited the Hetch Hetchy area in the park.
On the final day in the park, we took a hike into the wilderness area and a part of the park in which we only saw a total of 10 other people on that day’s hike. We hiked up to a mountain lake on a trail that promised an overview of a valley just beyond the lake. We had trouble finding the trail and had to walk off the trail for a bit to find it, but when we did, it was beautiful! It felt as though we had discovered a valley for the first time. There were no buildings, buses or cars. There were no people. It looked perfect! Later we learned that it was part of Hetch Hetchy; a part that is not covered with water and remains unspoiled. We were able to catch a glimpse of what it was like before.
I relate this because it strikes me as a parable of life and death on this earth. God created us and this world perfect in every way. Adam and Eve thought that they could improve on it and “become like God, knowing both good and evil,” and we have been dealing with the result ever since. Our perfect world has been spoiled by sin and while there is beauty that remains, much of it is covered and spoiled by sin. But someday our lives and this world will be restored completely. Someday, we will live in the new heavens and new earth and things will be perfect once again.
The morning after we got back home, we learned that our dear brother Thurman had collapsed and died. His journey through life was over. I thought of that unspoiled view of the Hetch Hetchy Valley and I thought of Thurman now being in the presence of Jesus and ever closer to being fully and wonderfully restored when Jesus comes again. We saw a glimpse of original beauty in Yosemite. When we returned, we were reminded of where we are ultimately going someday: the newly restored and redeemed heaven and earth. And while we grieve a deep loss for our church, I thank God for the gifts of Yosemite and Thurman. Both have given me a glimpse into God’s magnificent glory.