This past weekend we took in a couple of days camping in the Great Smoky Mountains. Ordinarily I am not much for camping in the middle of the summer, but temperatures were mild, the trees were in full leaf, elk were grazing and the rivers and creeks were still swollen from a long summer’s rain.
On our first afternoon we decided to take a little dip in the river that runs alongside our campsite. When I say “we” I mean “Aaron and Amy.” I do not do cold water, which I know must come as a surprise considering my frequent dips in the baptismal waters, oftentimes a shade on the chilly side. Soon enough that afternoon, however, I succumbed to their taunting and took the plunge into the rushing, crystal-clear current. I immediately realized and my mistake. It was not just that my skin felt as though it was being completely flayed from the subarctic temperatures (only a slight exaggeration). My glasses that were on my face when I dove in were now gone…below surface and presumably downstream. This was not a mere inconvenience or just another expensive mistake (why leave home, right?). The first thing I do when I wake up is put on my glasses and the last thing I do before going to sleep is take them off, because I am woefully and fearfully nearsighted.
I have to confess I immediately was resigned to going about half-blind for the remainder of the trip, which would be no fun at all. There was no way my glasses could be found in a fast-flowing river of water that is waste high and ten yards wide. Amy insisted we look – how ironic – and sure enough after a few minutes of spreading out down stream Aaron dived down and resurfaced with my glasses, intact. “Well done young lad! You have been faithful over a small thing. Now I will reward you with a tank of gas for your car.”
I apologize for stating the obvious but we will not see if we do not look. I am glad I had a few folks willing to look, who could also see, and therefore find what I desperately needed.
We will not see if we do not look. What are you looking for? There is this story in the first chapter of the Gospel of John where two of John the Baptist’s disciples leave John to follow Jesus. Jesus turns to them and asks the question, What are you looking for? (John 1:38) Maybe Jesus was questioning their motives. It doesn’t take a biblical scholar to read this story and wonder just how fickle were these disciples who were one day following John and the next following Jesus.
What, exactly are you looking for? Not a bad question Jesus. It is the kind of question that haunts us throughout life. Some do not have an answer. Some are just not looking for anything in a meaningful spiritual relationship. Life is fine for them. Jesus serves as a security card just in case trouble comes down the road.
Maybe that is why many are disillusioned with the church. We are busy promoting our own answers to questions people aren’t even asking. Maybe not only Jesus should ask this question, but we should too. What are you looking for in this life, and in this world? Some might respond we are looking for answers to life’s great questions: who am I? Why am I here? Why is there suffering in this world? Some are looking for help just coping through life. Some are looking for someone to hear their doubts and fears.
This question “what are you looking for?” soon moves to something else Jesus says in verse 39: Come and see. Come and see is the invitation to anyone who is tired of a broken world and broken lives and wonders if there is still some deliverance left. It is an invitation for anybody who knows that there is more to life than what they are living and for that matter what they are seeing.
Seeing rarely comes first because, like a nearsighted man without his glasses, we cannot always trust what we see. We can see the carnage and disappointment and the brokeness – all of that is easy enough. It takes effort and a bit of risk to choose to look for hope and healing and wholeness.
Jesus asks to would-be followers, “What are you looking for?” And then he answers his own question, “Come and see.” Seeing comes from looking. When we look and see, we just might find what we have been searching for. Of course you have to start looking in the first place.
Blessings and peace,