There once was a little boy, afire with imagination. His face glowed like the noonday sun and his eyes lit up like the stars. Whatever he came across he took time to observe, and everything he observed he marveled at. The world was at his fingertips and he took nothing for granted.
One day, an older man approached the young boy and stooped down to speak him. The boy gazed inquisitively upward, innocent and unafraid. The man reached into his pocket and withdrew a curious box, no bigger than his hand. Ablaze with eagerness, the boy could barely contain himself. “This is for you,” the man said, handing him the box.
The boy opened the lid to find the most peculiar and wonderful thing his eyes had ever beheld. It was a glowing orb, swirling with colors that joyously danced and intertwined with one another. The surface was smooth and clear, but the inside was full of life. “What is it?” the boy asked, an irrepressible grin spanning from ear to ear.
“Ah!” the man replied, “What it does is this: to reflect what you feel inside, in your heart and in your spirit. Not only does is shine back at you but it leads you to new and exciting places. It takes you to entirely different worlds. It shows you colors like you’ve never seen before.”
The boy couldn’t take his eyes from it. The colors of the sphere mingled with those of his soul in a beautiful, magical blend. His mouth was agape at each new spark that ignited within his hands.
“Now,” the man warned, “You must always remember this feeling. Don’t lose your excitement, your innocence, or your joy.”
For an instant the boy removed his eyes from what he held in his hands. “Don’t worry,” he assured the man, “I will never lose what you’ve given me today.”
The man nodded, tipped his hat, and went on his way. After a few strides he stole a look at the boy, who was still riveted by the orb. The man smiled, but feared inside that someday the boy would lose sight of the colors, and forget the feeling of the joy in his soul.
Meanwhile, the boy continued to marvel at his colorful sphere. He tossed it gaily in the air and caught it gently again. He rolled it through the grass and bowled it across the field. He clutched it tightly to his chest and wouldn’t let it go. At night he tucked it against his cheek. All the while the sphere radiated with marvelous, colorful light. It reflected perfectly the curiosity and the wonder of its owner, never faltering, never failing.
Day after day and month after month, the boy was captivated by his sphere. He rarely took his eyes from it and seldom put it out of sight, but when he did, his mind with always connected to it, equally effusive with color. The spectrum expanded to new horizons, all in the spirit of the boy.
Years began to pass, however, and the boy aged into a man. He had less time to marvel at things around him and his curiosity waned. Slowly but surely the sphere was sent to the back of his mind, and gradually expelled from his soul. It got to the point that he rarely glanced at it anymore. He would tuck it in his jacket pocket and forget it was there.
The colors that once frolicked inside began to fade. Their liveliness began to slow. What once was a colorful cacophony had become a stagnant shadow. The only shades that sloshed around were browns, blacks, and greys.
Eventually, the man removed the orb from his pocket. By accident, he dropped it and it rolled across his desk. As the sphere bounced over white paper it left a trail of ebony ink, dark as the night.
In a moment of eerie panic, the man experienced the strangest sense he had ever felt. He was snapped from where he stood, whipped to a different moment in time, and he was left, looking at himself as a boy. What he experienced next was a flood of emotions: rue, anger, confusion, regret, and sadness.
He then witnessed the old man approach him with the curious box, and he broke down in tears. His shoulders heaved heavily and his head sunk into his hands. He simply sat and cried.
When he lifted up his head, he was back in his office. He looked around through blurry eyes and groped to find his sphere. When he did, he noticed that it churned with deep blues and resonant purples. There was a flicker of dark amber, deep within the center, like an ember of a dying fire… or a fire reborn.
Movement returned to his sphere, and to his soul. As he inhaled and exhaled slowly his spirit came back to life. It was as if he had woken from an eternal slumber. His eyes opened wider. His mind was enlightened once again. His curiosity was peaked and innocence was sparked within him.
In a rush of sheer delight he dashed outside, not into sunlight but into rain. Euphoric, he gazed up at the skies, shouting at the top of his lungs. His sphere swirled with glee, gradually regaining its color. As the rain poured from the heavens he stood there, exhilarated. His eyes and mouth and soul were all agape; agape with marvelous, colorful wonder.
Recently I’ve learned something that I suppose I already knew. Sadly, I never quite perceived it in this light, which is now abundantly refreshing to my spirit. In the past day or two, I had grown rather lonely, increasingly aware of the physical distance between myself and those I love back home. Despite the assured belief that God is always with me, I failed to rest in His presence in my yearning for the warm embrace of another. The fact that God was with me did not squeeze me so tightly that I would run out of breath; nor could I squeeze Him back. Little did I know that what I needed most was not a physical embrace, but a spiritual one.
In my shallowness I had confused myself into thinking that I had furthered myself from God. I pained at the thought of the increasing distance between us, incapable of doing anything about it. But here is what I’ve been retaught: Nowhere can I stray that is any farther from God; nor can God ever grow any nearer to me. He is closer to me than my own soul, nearer than my innermost thoughts. Even when I neglect to recognize His presence, He is there. Much like Adam, David, and Jonah, I erred in thinking that I could distance myself from God (not that I wanted to). But, the human folly is that we think in terms of the physical world. What I became caught up on was physical distance. What I thought I needed was physical touch. Everything we talk about or describe relies on the use of our five senses. Strip away taste, smell, sound, sight, and touch. What are you left with? Soul. And that’s where God dwells.
He can grow no farther from us. Nor can we run away from Him. There is no place that God is not. He is with us, wherever we are. I’ve always known that God is with me, but I now realize that I cannot be without Him. I’ve always strived to draw nearer to God, but I now realize that it’s not a physical gap that I’m closing. The goal in life is not to inch closer to God with every prayer. It’s to draw nearer in our experience of Him. It’s to rest, and reside, and dwell, and abide in Him.
I’ve always loved this verse, Psalm 18:2, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” I’ve always pictured myself, in times of trouble, running into His stronghold; this giant, impenetrable, castle-like structure where I can safely wait out whatever is pressing me. But I think my perspective of this verse has changed. I now realize that I need not run to God; He already dwells within me. I need not run into His stronghold; it already surrounds me. All I need to do is recognize His presence, and rest there.
No longer will I fear growing farther apart from God. No longer will I strive to inch closer to Him in distance. Instead, my aim is this: to not only recognize His presence, but to ever seek it. Many people have had the experience of recognizing God within them, but not everyone presses into Him. What we need to realize is that God is not simply there. He wants to be there. He is constantly yearning for us to engage with Him, to communicate back with Him. Furthermore, He’s given us the ability do so. I absolutely love what A.W. Tozer says: “We have within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His overtures.” So this is my prayer, to respond.