The Thrill of Discovery
Updated: Jan 25
I will never forget the first time I walked in the doors of the City Museum in St. Louis. I was a Youth Minister back then, overseeing a church trip with a group of our pre-teens. As soon as you enter the main lobby your eyes are immediately locked on the middle of the room. A twirling, circular ladder made out of metal pipe stretches up two stories and disappears into a hole in the ceiling. We were all instantly enthralled. As we watched other kids climing up the tube-ladder and vanishing into the ceiling, our minds raced in curisotiy. Where does it lead? Where do you come out? Not knowing was the best part. Oh, the potential! The possibilities! I felt like such a kid again.
The memories of my first visit to that magical place have never left me. And the more I reflect on them, the more I realize how perfect an illustration it is for the lifetime of discovery that A.W. Tozer so aptly called The Pursuit of God.
The City Museum is a ten-story, indoor and outdoor maze/playground. It’s every little kid’s dream. As you walk around, you come upon all of these holes in the wall, secret passageways that remind you of the entrance to a cave just begging to be explored. You see little boys and girls tugging on their mom's sleeve, asking if they can go in, fully expecting her to say no, and then beaming with surprising joy when she says yes. There are a thousand ways to get lost and immediately a thousand corresponding ways to get unlost. Outside, you will find long, metal bridge-tunnels built four stories high, suspended across platforms over fifty feet apart. As you climb across you can’t help but feel afraid for your life (and for the condition of your knees!), but at the same time astoundingly lucky that you are priviledged to experience this before some OSHA safety officer comes to shut it down. The expression on the faces of those kids when they see the periodic signs that say, “10-Story Slide This Way,” are priceless.
Life is like this. This world that God has made is so much bigger and more mysterious than our finite minds could ever fathom. But most particularly, discovering God through the Bible is like this. God himself is so big, so mysterious, that we will never mine the depths of his character and his ways, but you can rest assured we will spend the rest of our lives trying! From the time someone experiences that first wave of wonder and transcendence after learning something new about God, the Bible becomes a never-ending maze/playground of exploration, discovery, and joys that seem too good to be true.
As Gavin Ortlund says, in his book Why God Makes Sense in A World That Doesn't,
“It feels as though we have spent all our lives living in the basement, with no conception of what “outside” means—only one day to happen upon a hidden staircase leading upward into the unknown, with sunlight streaming down through the cracks in the doorway at the top. Can you imagine the thrill of such a discovery? Anything could be up there.”*
This means, as we encounter God in increasing measures of depth through his word, we can expect to periodically find ourselves confused and, at times, even unnerved. Just like those moments at the City Museum when I felt lost, or even afriad of falling, so it is with God. This makes snese when we consider how small and finite we are, compared to how enormous and infinite he is. It has often been said, if God can always fit inside the box your mind has created for him, you’re probably not actually encountering the God of the Bible.
But we can also expect to regularly experience the feeling that something we have always longed for, but never thought possible, is finally coming true. I can attest to this myself in my own pursuit of God since I became a believer. In my latter years of high school I would sometimes sit on my bed and read over the passages in my Bible that I had higlighted. As I would stop to meditate and let the meaning of it hit me, I can vividly remember a tingling warmth in my chest. This wasn’t just emotional—it was physical. The wonder of God’s glory was so exciting that it actually had physical effects on my body. I became addicted to that tingling feeling, and have been ever since.
Welsh Pastor Geoffrey Thomas said it about as well as I think anyone could. So I will close with his words:
“Do not expect to master the Bible in a day, or a month, or a year. Rather expect often to be puzzled by its contents. It is not all equally clear. Great men of God often feel like absolute novices when they read the Word. The Apostle Peter said that there were some things hard to understand in the epistles of Paul (2 Peter 3: 16). I am glad he wrote those words because I have felt that often. So do not expect always to get an emotional charge or a feeling of quiet peace when you read the Bible. By the grace of God you may expect that to be a frequent experience, but often you will get no emotional response at all. Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again as the years go by, and imperceptibly there will come great changes in your attitude and outlook and conduct. You will probably be the last to recognize these. Often you will feel very, very small, because increasingly the God of the Bible will become to you wonderfully great. So go on reading it until you can read no longer, and then you will not need the Bible any more, because when your eyes close for the last time in death, and never again read the Word of God in Scripture you will open them to the Word of God in the flesh, that same Jesus of the Bible whom you have known for so long, standing before you to take you forever to His eternal home.”**
* Gavin Ortlund, Why God Makes Sense in a World That Doesn't (Crossway), p. 48
** Geoffrey Thomas, Reading the Bible (Banner of Truth)