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God’s Glory

Rebecca West

I traveled to the end of the earth once—by accident really. In this corner of the world, the land narrows and comes to a point, with frozen ocean on either side. Without any barriers, the wind blows hard enough to knock bikes and motorcycles out from under their riders. Trees don’t bend from the strength of the gusts; instead, they grow at an angle from the constant pressure. Sun, snow, and mud mix. Dogs roam in packs. Yet, every moment there is almost magical.

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I discovered that many other people had also arrived there by accident. They intended to go to the great Patagonia mountains, but they accidentally ended up seeking the end of the earth. They were lost. Many had travelled the world. They lived to roam; and without more places to go, they came here—to this last point.

We were a few miles from Antarctica, where South America extends as if reaching out to its desolate frozen neighbor and a peninsula from the arctic reaches up to the inhabited mainland. Here, as the continent ends, the Andes Mountains step down to approachable heights, providing human access into parks such as Torres del Paine.

Rebecca West-end of world P1030475Inside the great Patagonian park, climate conditions from every season might occur in a single day. Echoes of the glacier melting and refreezing accompany the journey through ever-changing terrain. Great towers of yellow granite hide behind Andean mountains. Below, in a verdant valley, glacial runoff collects in lakes of bright aqua-blue, unlike water anywhere else. The glory of the park cannot be captured in words or pictures.

Yet, we gathered outside the park, as if afraid to enter. Those who intended to go inside came prepared with food and supplies, with a plan for coming and going. But those who had stumbled upon the end of the earth waited—as if afraid.

We all seemed to be searching for something. And escaping from something. Something seemed to be missing. Travelers who had seen the wonders of the world refused to return to their homes and yet idled outside, as if the audacity of the park kept them at bay.

Rebecca West-end of world P1030485As I reflect on that experience, I think it was precisely the audacity of the park that both brought people to this strange land and prevented them from entering. The magnitude and beauty of the great mountains and lakes force us to consider our finitude, our limits in the presence of the infinite God. The writers of the book Listening Hearts capture this experience perfectly: “When we encounter the Lord’s wholeness, we realize our own incompleteness.”

God’s glory can fill our hearts with joy, but only after we let go of ourselves. We are because God is. In God, how popular or how successful we are no longer matters. God does not care how many countries we have travelled to or whether we won our last game. Yet, to truly encounter God, we must first humble ourselves. We must acknowledge our incompleteness. We must open ourselves to God to make us whole.

DIG DEEPER

Choose something in nature that you can see from your house or your yard, and reflect on the wonders of it. The sunrise, the complexity of a flower, the stars in the sky, the movement of the clouds. Look up the science behind how that phenomenon works. Then take a moment outside alone, and contemplate that part of God’s creation. As you encounter that miracle of creation, let go of yourself and open your heart to God.

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Rebecca West saved up, quit her job, and moved to Chile to fulfill a promise to make a life in another country. Now back in the U.S. she sees God’s glory in thunderstorms, the fruit trees in her yard, and the love of friends and family.

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