Thought for the month – March 2019

“SEE THE UNSEEN”

Some of you know that I am a birder. A “birder” might be defined as an enthusiastic “birdwatcher”, but not as extreme as a “twitcher” (but we’ll not get hung up over the definitions…). Anyway, this year, a few of us are aiming to see 200 bird species in a calendar year, or if not, then at least beat our personal best (I managed 143 in 2018, so I need to step it up a bit this year!). So far, I am on 110, not a bad start to the year, and there will be some more to see at Camp (including the cliff nesting sand martins). To help us with our birding, we need some kit: usually binoculars (“bins”), perhaps a telescope and tripod (“scope”), and some intelligence (I don’t mean brainpower, I mean “intel” – some way of knowing where rarer birds have been seen, to make it easier to find them).

There is plenty of intel inside “Bird Watching” magazine, which contains lots of articles, hints and tips to improve your birding. One recent edition advertised a new piece of kit: the “binocular spotting scope”. This new concept combines the two eye pieces of bins, with the range of a scope. The ad said: “SEE THE UNSEEN”. With any additions to your birding kit-bag, you aim to see birds you’ve never seen before, that had only previously existed on the pages of the Collins Birds of Britain & Europe. Of course, the birds were there, but you couldn’t see them for yourself. Once you can see them, then you can study them: observe their plumage patterns and colours, their behaviour and flight, their calls and songs, their ecology: how they interact with the environment around them.

The same holds true with God. We know from the Bible that God is Spirit – that is, He is not a physical, but spiritual being (note that “not physical”, does not mean “not real”). How can we “see” God, if He is not physical? John 1 v 18 says “no one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” And Colossians 1 v 15 says “He (the Lord Jesus) is the image of the invisible God”.

So God can be seen, even though He is invisible. But we need to “use the right kit” to see Him – when we read about the life of Jesus in the Bible, we are actually learning about God, who He is, and what He is like. How good is your vision? Can you “see God”? It is easy to live life in purely physical or material ways, because our lives are dominated by things we can touch and feel. But although the physical realm all ultimately comes from God anyway, such that we can understand Him “in the things that have been made” (Romans 1 v 20), this should make us look deeper, to see the unseen.

Maybe you need some better kit. Yes, start with the Guide Book, the Bible. Find out what God is like, what to look for, how does He interact with His people? But remember that it’s one thing knowing what a bird looks like from a book, but you need to experience it first-hand. Now the question has changed: not just have you seen God, but do you know Him? After all, “this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” John 17 v 3.

We ought not to think of God as something to tick-off on our bucket list though, and move on to the next thing. The point is – we need to see Him, and then we need to experience Him for ourselves.

Jon Bustard, Young Christians’ Camp Leader