Back to our spiritual longings which may be awakened by moving music, or the beauty of nature, or breath-taking art. Have you noticed they often bring up some bittersweet feeling? The bitterness comes from the pain of not fully getting in—the sweetness pulls us in for a minute, and we feel like we’re in another world that’s real, and good, and right, that’s peaceful and just. It feels like home. Where we really belong. But then—the moment’s gone. We feel like spectators looking in from the outside. We feel bittersweet pangs because we weren’t invited to the party, and we weren’t asked to join the game. We weren’t even acknowledged. It’s as if the people in that world don’t care if we exist and don’t miss us when we’re gone.
And now we can see how God’s promise of glory actually matters deeply to us and meets our soul longings that we’ve felt all along. By searching into this idea that first seemed irrelevant and unattractive, we found that the Bible really does offer good news. We’ve found that glory means God’s approval, God’s acknowledgment of us, God’s pleasure in us. He sees us, he responds to us, he really cares about us. Glory means we will be welcomed in, into the heart of reality.
Could it be true? Or is this just a rabbit trail of words? In fact, the New Testament does talk about being welcomed personally. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Earlier in chapter 8 he said, “Anyone who loves God is known by him.” Striking, because you would expect him to say, “Anyone who loves God will know him,” but he doesn’t. Isn’t it also strange, since God knows everything, anyway?
Keep in mind that the Jewish understanding of knowledge always meant intimate personal relations hip. That’s why Mary said to the angel, “How could I be pregnant, when I’ve never known a man?” Clearly she knew many men in our way of using the term. She had met men, talked with them, knew many things about them. But she hadn’t known a man, if you catch her drift.
Paul’s saying God will relate us in a deeply personal, intimate way. Jesus uses the word in the same way, but scarier, when he warns us that we might face God and hear, “I never knew you. Depart from me.”
What a horrible thought. Dreadfully scary. And hard to accept. Somehow, God who is present everywhere, can banish us from his presence. If we choose to ignore him and shut him out now, in the end we may be left out ourselves, utterly and absolutely outside—rejected, exiled, denied, thrown out, ultimately ignored.
Or we can be called in, welcomed, received, and acknowledged by God. The door we’ve been outside all our lives will open, finally, and we will make it into the true inner circle of reality. Suddenly glory sounds very important. “Every day we walk on the razor edge between these two incredible possibilities.” 7
So that restless feeling we all have, of being on the outside but aching to be on the inside, turns out to not to be paranoid or neurotic. In fact, that feeling reflects the reality of our situation. To be invited and welcomed inside at last would be more glory and honor than we ever deserved, and would utterly heal that lifelong aching loneliness.