Can you see the beyond?

I have mentioned before that I used to be bound tightly by a food addiction, tormented by a relentless cycle of overeating, restricting, obsessing, exercising, calculating, regretting, vowing, sleeping, and starting again. Food gave me an illusion of control – when I wanted “out” of a situation or a feeling, a few bites or a quick run could take me to a different place. There was a big glitch in the strategy, though: as the originally effective behaviors progressed, so did the destructive consequences.

During that long season of struggle I yearned to be comfortable in my own skin, and I mean that not abstractly, but in a very physical, tangible sense. As my eating habits intensified and more poundage padded my frame, shame and squirminess also increased. I regularly felt fleshy, heavy, bloated, and bogged down. At times I would picture myself being happy with how I looked – back to my healthy weight and somehow managing to stay there – but as the days of self-defeating eating turned to months and then to years, that picture faded and hope only flickered faintly.

Were restoration and redemption really truly even a possibility? They had to be, I kept telling myself. They just had to be. There had to be something good up ahead.

I believe that awful addiction was a physical manifestation of a spiritual bind that blinded me from seeing the “beyond.” Trapped in a thick haze, my ability to imagine a bright future was almost entirely extinguished.

Fortunately my sight is no longer fully blocked by food, but I have found that when I walk through stretches of feeling externally or internally out of sorts – like during those seasons when I sense God the Loving Gardener planting, trimming, snipping, rearranging and/or uprooting my inner orchard – I can quite easily lose sight of the “beyond.” Things get to feeling uneasy and my flesh immediately wants out, forgetting that it is by letting God lead us through the discomfort that we emerge stronger and more sanctified.

Sometimes during challenges I become visionless and thus have to ask God for a picture of hope, which often enters my mind through encouraging Scripture stories or the uplifting words of another person. At other times I find myself holding onto an image of my own will, an unhelpful hope that needs to be surrendered, then reshaped or fully substituted. While I may be mistaken, it sure seems that in order to keep walking this pilgrim path faithfully, a vision of the future – even if its clouded or confusing – is vital.

Isn’t that the crux of the Gospel? That there’s something more. That a deeper reality exists, and the story isn’t yet over. That we’re headed somewhere brighter and more beautiful, and that we’re not alone on the journey. That at a perfectly planned time, more will be revealed.

So today, let us vow to squint and see what has not yet come into full sight. Let us remember that when we walk this way of life – pursuing intimate communion and companionship with the living God – we’re never truly stuck, never fully knocked down. Let us close our eyes, ask God for vision, imagine the unseen, and then press on, perhaps singing a song of praise as we actively choose to believe in the “beyond.” As 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 promises, there’s light and life ahead:

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. (The Message)

 Can you see the beyond?