371: My Passport Holds the Secret of Dead Kings
My recent trip to Western Norway ambushed me. Multiple times, I got choked up while looking at my natural surroundings while listening to evocative music. I found what many kings could not.
I’ve explored 15 countries, but Norway introduced me to unprecedented views.
“Beautiful” falls short.
“Pristine” would work, if it hadn’t been cheapened by so many marketers.
It’s no wonder that the ferry operator called my Tuesday excursion “The Royal Fjord Tour.”
Norwegian engineers have created incredible infrastructure for exploring the lushest inhospitable place I’ve ever visited. You can tell that less than a century’s worth of human history has enjoyed its current access to the fjords and islands. Before that, only hardy sailors and intrepid homesteaders absorbed these hidden corners. I wanted to pinch myself for this exclusivity.
As I walked back to my hostel from one of these untouched places, a tiny wildflower stopped me in my tracks. From cracks in a massive rock, its pink petals trembled in North Sea breezes. I wondered in how many remote places on the planet God had planted these, how many locations not yet visited by human eyes and feet. My memory flashed to last August and the flowers I saw growing out of the rock cliffs next to the Conrad Glacier—stone faces that have been covered by ice until just five years ago.
After that, I heard a whisper, a reminder of a verse I’ve read dozens of times. 3,000 years ago, Hebrew scribes wrote, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2) That verse had puzzled me for decades until recently.
God makes beautiful things for himself, whether we will ever find them. He paints and sculpts because he can, because he enjoys it. He creates just to store beauty. He curates gardens and fountains where we can’t take credit for them. He has done this for millennia, knowing that we would take centuries to find his masterpieces—that we might never find them.
I was struck that these far flung discoveries have been my destiny. My name, Ryan, came to the English language by way of the Latin Rex (from which my Spanish-speaking friends get their Rey). It means “little king.” The roots of my family name, George, dig down to origins of “in the earth” or “works in the dirt.” So, I was meant either (1) to lead a bunch of farmers and excavators or (2) to be one who searches out God’s secrets around the world. I’ll take “THE SECOND ONE” for $800, Alex.
We live in an amazing time. Relative to human history, we’re all kings. Even if we can’t jump on planes to the corners of the map, we can explore Google Images and Instagram. Every time I open a new Chrome window, a Google Earth plugin populates my monitor with unique aerial images. These natural wonders have become so commonplace.
I fight that apathy with travel. The intentionality of that worship drives my destinations; it’s also why I have a “Desert Devotions” playlist on my phone and headphones in every backpack. Solomon was very right. I take glory in my Lilliputian conquering, my tourist version of exploring. Ironically, though, that pursuit leads me back to the glory that can never be mine.
That is why God hides these wonders out in the wide open. He knows vastness will slow our approach. That is why he shrouds his art within roughly-hewn citadels and behind clandestine guardians. He wants native sounds to drown out our cares when we discover his pervasive creativity. He wants to see our faces, watch our jaws drop, hear those involuntary exhales. He takes pleasure in our pursuit of glory leading us to his.
Jesus promised that those who seek him will find him. I claim that promise almost every time I leave civilization. You can, too. We don’t need a passport to realize this, though. Hiking boots or wet suits, either. Because God lives everywhere, his sovereign omnipotence wiggles out of the cracks of our daily lives.
That promise only works, though, when we hold up our end of the deal. We must seek. We must keep our eyes open and our feet moving. We must go further than the kings who went before us.