As I write this, I am driving with my family across a vast, wintry prairie. Aside from the narrow strip of bare pavement straight ahead of us, the entire landscape is pure white. And there is really no definite horizon where the snow-stuffed clouds meet the snow-laden fields. Saskatchewan’s living skies look a bit deader than usual today with all this cloud cover. The few trees that dot the plain are covered in hoarfrost, looking as if they’ve been momentarily uprooted and dipped in a thin white icing before being secured back in place.
This isn’t the part of Canada I grew up in; it’s the landscape of my husband’s childhood. And we are visiting his family for the holidays, enjoying our first white Christmas in years. The day we arrived, our children spotted the city lights a long way off as we drove toward Grandma and Grandpa’s house and thought, for sure, we must be getting close. After another half hour of driving without seeming to get any closer, it became obvious that the prairies have a way of messing with our Nova Scotian perception of distance.
I can’t see quite as far today though. There is ice fog of some sort hanging in the air. Now, fog is nothing new to us. We live on a lake very near the coast, and fog can be a daily reality for us. At times it so thick we can’t even see the lake a few feet from our back door. But this Saskatchewan fog is a little different. It’s impeding my view somewhat (I mean, perhaps I’d only be able to watch my dog run away for one day instead of three); but even with the fog, there is a sense of immensity that I can’t quite get comfortable with. Our oldest daughter summed it up well when she said, “There’s no escape, nowhere to hide.”
I tend to identify with my daughter’s sentiment as far as the prairies go. But the older I get, the more my east coast self can appreciate them. I think it’s because I see in them a life analogy. As I grow older, I know that what lies beyond the uneasiness of openness and vulnerability is well worth pushing past the initial discomfort.
I can remember a time when I endured the pain of a deep and inescapable unmasking. I had nowhere to hide, and truth was marching stronger than any obstacle or distraction I could throw in its path. I hid out in a hot bubble bath, wishing the steam could somehow vaporize the humiliation I felt. But it couldn’t. There was absolutely no way out. Eyeball to eyeball with my shame, it hit me that God knew it all along. God knew it better and before I even did. He knew me, and He loved me. He always loved me. He still loved me. In fact, His unbreakable, unshakable love was the very thing drawing me into His healing embrace and driving me to love Him back. Truth, no matter how painful, was never meant to drive me away from Him. In that moment, His grace transformed the truth from something unbearable to unbelievably comforting.
Lord, you have searched me and known me. Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night” — even the darkness is not dark to you. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you. – Psalm 139:1, 7, 11-12 (CSB)
We can grow so complacent behind the masks we fashion and the walls we throw up, perhaps deceiving ourselves more than anyone else. That is, until something opens our eyes to the truth of our lives. Even if there were forests to hide in, caves to run to, darkness to cover us, none of those things would do anything to hide us from the One Who knows us completely.
Maybe that’s why I’m growing to appreciate the prairies. That open space is closer to the truth of our situation. Standing alone and completely exposed in the centre of one of these snowy fields flying past my window right now is pretty much how you and I have stood before God every moment of our lives, whether we’ve known it or not. But, miraculously, when we are brave enough to embrace the exposure, He doesn’t leave us shivering and alone. He wraps us in what we were meant to be covered with all along — His love and grace.
The layers we try to cover up with are all ill-fitting and don’t ever do the job. Like Adam and Eve trying their hardest to clothe themselves with fig leaves, it’s futile. In their case, God stepped in with animal coverings that came at a price, but it was blood sacrifice that would open a way to continued communion and point the way to complete forgiveness through the ultimate sacrifice of His Son many centuries later. God’s way of dealing with our shame is always best. Let’s not be scared to step into the open.
Coming out of our hiding places requires faith that God will make a way to cover everything we can’t. His love and grace wraps us securely when we rest ourselves entirely in His embrace, when we trust Him enough to be honest about what has really been the truth all along — that we stand in the open utterly helpless, yet seen and known and loved by Him.
No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens — Jesus the Son of God…who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin…let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Hebrews 4:13-16 CSB)
No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. – Hebrews 4:13-16 (CSB)