Many mornings I begin my devotional time by meditating on a selection from The Valley of Vision, a small book of prayers collected by Arthur Bennett. One of my favorites is the introductory piece by Bennett himself, which like the book takes its title from Isaiah 22:1. The prayer centers on the many paradoxes of the Christian faith—those counterintuitive aspects of the Christian life that never fail to surprise and disorient, but which are nevertheless commonly shared and understood by the faithful.
I resonate with this prayer because it reminds me that even though God speaks clearly to us through his word and through creation, we can never quite get our minds around his ways. Jesus befuddled the most religiously sophisticated of his day—those with all the answers about God—but offered words of hope-filled truth for the humble, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
I see similar elements of surprise in the natural world as revealed by science. Many things in nature would seem impossible if not for their observed reality. Light behaves as a wave or a particle, depending on how you look at it. Some species of cicadas live underground for 17 years, only to emerge en masse to mate before dying just a few weeks later. A tree hundreds of feet tall begins with a single seed. Aren’t these simple things extraordinary? Most of us have never waited outside a cicada’s burrow for 17 years, or verified that a tree does in fact grow from a seed, but we believe these things on the basis of evidence collected by others. But what about those aspects of our natural world that seem to disorient or upend our notions about God’s act of creation? Will we have eyes to see and ears to hear when the truth is not what we were expecting?
Today is a day for rest and worship. It is also a wonderful opportunity to praise God for revealing Himself to us in unexpected and delightful ways. May you be blessed by consideration of His paradoxes.
The Valley of Vision
By Arthur Bennett
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter
thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
that every good work or thought found in me
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley.