A Stairway to the Heart
How many ways can you think of that God has revealed Himself to people? Has your idea of God been formed from one specific experience or from a number of experiences? Is your understanding of God most clearly expressed through one of the Gospels, through the letters of Paul or through the Old Testament or a combination of all these? The more we explore the history of God with this world the more we discover that there is a thread running through all of it - a thread that is weaved into the cloth of history but one which reveals itself in different patterns and shapes.
Have you ever gone to an art exhibit with a friend and looked at the same painting but come away with a completely different experience? Our relationship to God is very much like that. While there are certain tenets or beliefs that we hold as the core of our faith that provide us with a focus and starting point, where our relationship with God goes and how far it develops is very much between us and God. Each one of us will have an experience of God in our life that will vary from one to the other and no one of us can deny the validity of each other’s experience.
Even a brief look at the historical record of God with the people of the Bible will reveal that the experience of God was different for each generation. But what binds all their experiences together is God Himself, the presence of God in the midst of whatever circumstances or trials or joys that the people were experiencing. And yes, God did seek to provide direction to their lives and to communicate His vision for their lives but the ultimate decision to believe and to follow was with the people.
For some of them, their relationship to God was very definite and consisted of God giving them rules which they were to follow; for others, it was a matter of being convinced in a logical way of the existence of God and of the need for God in their lives; for others, their experience of God was more mystical and ascetic. In short, faith and the practice of faith has never been and can never be the same thing to all people. There is a well-known saying which tells us very truly and beautifully that “God has His own secret stairway into every heart.” And when we discover that stairway, we discover God.
What the author of the Hebrews discovered was that God not only has a secret stairway into our hearts but that He has also provided a door that we can open. After all, if a stairway is secret, it no doubt has a hidden door that must be discovered. And that door has a handle on both sides so that not only can God access that stairway by opening the door, but we can also take that stairway and open the door to God. And for this author, God is all about giving us access to Him. It is about bringing us into His presence; it is about removing the barriers, taking away the things that have kept us from exploring that stairway and allowing the door to be opened to allow the living God to be with us.
Through His incarnation in Jesus Christ, God shows Himself in a way that we can visually and audibly recognize. Through the life and ministry of Jesus, we discover God’s ultimate vision for our lives both now and in eternity. A light has shone in the darkness through Christ. Now we can see our way on the stairway and we can feel safe knowing that both God and we can open that door to each other. As the author states in chapter 10: “Since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” However, we ultimately view God or see God in our life, the author of this letter knows that the only way we can ever know God is to draw near to Him.
The image of Jesus presented to us here is one which is meant to encourage us to stay firm in our faith and to ever remember that this God whom we invite into our lives is not a remote or unfeeling deity. This is One who not only entered this world as a spirit, who not only sent angelic messengers, but who entered this world in the flesh of His creations and suffered in body, mind and spirit not for His sake but for ours.
How difficult is it to empathize with people when they experience circumstances beyond what we have ever experienced ourselves? We can truly never imagine it. And while we seek so much to understand and provide comfort and support, we know that our efforts will fall short. We can only come so close.
And while a list of all that Christ experienced or suffered is not given for us in the records left to us of His life, we are assured by all who gave witness to His life that indeed He suffered in every way as we have but not just for the sake of suffering but that He might help us to know in every way possible that He is able to provide comfort, strength, guidance and support to us no matter what we face in life.
And we can place our hope and faith in Him as we do in God for He is God and yet wholly one of us. He has suffered in ways we could never imagine God suffering; and though His earthly life ended up in a cruel death, that death was the start of a promised eternal life for all who would believe. Now we need fear nothing in life or death, now we need not be concerned about falling short in our life with God for now we know that there is One who has gone before us, who has opened the door and enabled us to finally and fully experience the grace, the mercy and the redemption of God in our lives.
As we approach the table of our Lord today let us seek for that secret stairway into our heart. May God bless us and all whom we love, and may we find His comfort, grace and mercy in all the circumstances of our life!