Inigo Montoya: “Who are you?”
Westley: “No one of consequence.”
Inigo Montoya: “I must know…”
Westley: “Get used to disappointment.”During the sword fight in the movie The Princess Bride
I live below the flight path of planes going to San Diego, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Upon hearing the sound of a jet, I will often open an app on my phone to discover what flight it is. A United 737 from Charlotte to Phoenix just flew north, descending for arrival. The flight attendants will be moving through the cabin, preparing the plane and passengers for landing. Much higher up, at 40,000 feet, a Southwest flight is cruising from Houston to Long Beach.
Ever since I was young, I have wanted to fly. I don’t think I took my first flight until I was in my 20’s; it was an amazing experience. I’ve often imagined being able to take someone like Leonardo da Vinci on a ride on a modern jet liner to watch his delight of being able to fly like a bird. da Vinci imagined flying machines and would be astonished, as I am, at what has been achieved.
After years of air travel, especially on long, international trips, I’ll admit that I am now much less impressed by the actual experience of flying, despite still being captivated by the idea of flying. Leaving the ground and seeing the world from several miles up is amazing. The hard, cramped seats that press against my kneecaps for hours on end, the long lines, the frantic competition for overhead storage space, the harried flight attendants, and the uncomfortably long waits in cavernous terminals for connecting flights have definitely taken the gloss off the whole experience.
We often have experiences where the reality fails to live up to the hype. I will admit, and I know this is heresy, that I don’t think In-N-Out burgers are as amazing as everyone tells me they are. The service is terrific; the food is just ok. And as much as I admire the engineering savvy and entrepreneurial brashness demonstrated at Tesla, I don’t think their cars are worth the exorbitant amount they charge for them.
SpaceX, though, is altogether amazing!
I’ve bought pillows that claimed they would let me sleep in comfort, but so far they’ve all been less miraculous than advertised. I love my iPhone, but cellular service providers are very hit and miss.
And then there’s church. What should the experience of entering into worship before the Lord of lords alongside a community of Jesus followers be like? Pretty dang awesome, I would think. John paints a picture for us of a future scene of heavenly worship:
Then the twenty-four elders and the four living beings fell down and worshiped God, who was sitting on the throne. They cried out, “Amen! Praise the LORD!”Revelation 19:4-7 (NLT)
And from the throne came a voice that said, “Praise our God, all his servants, all who fear him, from the least to the greatest.”
Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: “Praise the LORD! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself.”
I love church. I love worship. I love gathering with fellow believers to sing and praise God and hear from the Scriptures. But I’m a true believer, an insider. I’m willing to put up with a lot of nonsense to be part of that weekly Sunday scene. Looking at it critically, I can see how church might be a let-down for folks who are just testing the waters, or for anyone whose conception of the spiritual just doesn’t fit inside of a building. Christianity is not only a religion but a culture; actually, it’s one religion expressed in a great variety of cultural iterations, some traditional, some avant-garde, some mystical, some mystifying. Some of those iterations are downright heretical.
And then, there’s the problem of me and my too-often grandiose expectations. When I come to worship feeling sleep deprived or worried or distracted or upset, the experience of worship can fall completely flat.
I don’t think a true encounter with God could ever disappoint, but there are layers and layers of gauze and mists and noise that distance me from the throne with its circling angels and thunderous voices of praise.
“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” GodJeremiah 29:13 (NLT)
When my experience of God is less than I had hoped for, less than I expected, less than I needed, it most likely reflects on me and the often brutal circumstances of life that keep distancing me from that place of hallelujah that surrounds God. One day, I hope to be there, shouting praise with the rest of the saints.
Photo credit: ABC News