And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18, NIV)
Do you like Christmas trees? Do you like a really decked out Christmas tree with all the trimmings? Filled with cliché for sure. There is a depth or a richness or a substance to words like “decked out” and “trimmings” that might be lost in a modern vernacular. Christmas trees today are often “trimmed” with ornaments from a department store. They are “beautiful” in their appearance but are of no substance. They are hollow glass balls that look pretty, right? Who am I fooling. Now the more popular version is really painted styrofoam or something like that. Facades. Pretend. Shallow. No substance. I’m not beating up Christmas ornaments (just in case there is an ornament lobby out there) but trying to make a point. When you pick up one of those glass (or plastic) orbs of beauty, what do you have in your hand? Air mostly. They really make a tree look awesome but have no substance to speak of.
In the “ancient past” there was a word that was used to describe the “substance” of something. This word in Hebrew was kabowd (and its various forms). It comes from another word kabad or kabed which meant heavy or weighty or burdensome. If something was “of substance” it would be kabab. If something or someone was known for their kabad, they would be kabowd or Glorious!
My Grandfather used to carry around a gold nugget. He was born in the early 1920’s and served in WWII as a supply clerk. I don’t know if it was his experiences in the depression or his Army training in “goods and services” but he understood the “substance” or “value” of something. He had this gold nugget because it was “worth” something. It was “greater” than its appearance. It had “substance” that was “weighty.” OK, I can only lead the witness so much. The nugget was not special to look at. It was lumpy and wasn’t shiny all over like you would expect. It was dull and you might mistake it for something that belonged in the trash. But when you held it…wow. For its tiny size, it was heavy. At least that is what I remember about this nugget. It had a substance that was greater than its appearance. It was “glorious.”
I just returned from a trip to Colorado (15 hour drive either way) and I had a chance to listen to a couple of audio books. One was a book by Rob Bell that I would highly recommend. Here is a link:
Rob talks about Kabowd. He was discussing language and how it can miss the mark. We have a tough time describing in words something that is experienced in our humanity. You know what I am talking about. Like a painting or work of art. You don’t describe the color palette, you talk about how you felt and how it “moved you.” When you talk about the “love of your life” you don’t quote their shoe size, right? When you go to the mechanic because your car isn’t starting, you don’t want to hear him say “well she is just temperamental and I’m sure she will get over it and start again once she has had a chance to process.” No, you want to hear “the ECU is receiving an invalid signal for the Oxygen sensor which the onboard diagnostics have declared as faulty and my dealer-supplied external diagnostics system confirms the faulty sensor….so we recommend it be replaced for exactly $57.35 with labor coming to $73.88…but this week we are throwing in a free oil change with every repair as a maintenance preventative measure for our valued customers.” Yeah, language can miss the mark.
Kabowd is something that goes beyond language and senses and “seeing” in our physical perceptions. Kabowd is the “deeper” more “substantive” reality of something. It is the weightiness of the gold nugget. It is when a scene in a movie moves you with emotion. It is when your friend tells you they are getting a divorce and all you have to offer is deep deep compassion and grief. It is when you reach the top of the mountain or have your first solo flight in a T-34C…
I was in Pensacola Florida in primary flight training. I had an instructor that was supposed to be my mentor but turned out to be my greatest nightmare. This guy was brutal in the cockpit. There would be screaming and cussing and degrading. I flew with another guy once (the first guy was sick) and it was amazing. This other instructor was actually instructing me. He seemed to care if I got better at flying the mighty T-34C. Anyway….I digress. After 12 or so flights, the instructor will determine if you are “safe for solo.” This means they give you the keys and you get to go flying by yourself….yes no instructor!!!…with some restrictions of course. I can still feel the excitement and terror of flying by myself for the first time. Wow, what a rush! Where do I go? What do I do? What maneuvers can I perform? What if I get lost? What if I make a mistake? The list goes on and on. Still the flight was GLORIOUS! I transcended beyond the mere flying of the aircraft into something bigger than me. I…yes little ole me…was given the responsibility and the freedom and the respect to take out a very expensive military aircraft and “do whatever I wanted.” I had more substance that day. I was more significant that day. Yes, my Glory was greater that day.
In this verse I started with (2 Cor 3:18) the phrase “…who is Spirit” is completely lost on us. I don’t think I am over-reaching here. In the western analytic physical-reality scientific-method enlightened superior intellect (please hear the sarcasm) we miss a fundamental understanding that they didn’t when Paul wrote this. When Paul says “…who is Spirit” he is isn’t saying “…who is less and hard to perceive and more like smoke and mirrors and ghosts and a poltergeist.” No no no. He is saying “bigger, more substance, not bound by physical limitations, the beginning of things, more weighty than our reality…” When we hear “God is Spirit” for some reason (that we will leave for another post) we think this means that God is undetectable or outside our grasp or something like that. We add a bit of Gnostic religious anti-Jesus doctrine and we actually begin to separate Spirit for Physical. Add a bit of guilt and shame of the western Christian religion anti-Jesus rhetoric of “good-bad” and it gets worse…spirit is sacred and physical is secular. Now we are off to the races stomping all over ourselves.
The truth is God is the substance of things. His glory is His weighty presence in all things. When you “feel” the deeper things of a conversation about a dear friend and a crumbling marriage…Kabowd. When you have that first solo flight and you really have no words for the experience…Kabowd. You hold your first child after an emergency C-section…Kabowd. You catch that 15lb Salmon on a 6lb tippet and a five weight fly rod while standing in a river in ALASKA…Kabowd.
When you see your reflection in the mercy seat…Kabowd
When you see your reflection in the face of Jesus…Kabowd
When your religion has no more hold on you and you can see with an unveiled face the weighty substance of a Jesus who transcends us into His reality…Kabowd.
When you see Jesus look at you and tell you that you are His greatest creation…Kabowd.
When you finally see your significance and beauty and magnificence and majesty as a child of the Most High God…Kabowd
When you realize that in your deepest and darkest nightmare, in your hiding place, in your safety of isolation, in your fear of other’s opinions, in your bitterness and unforgiveness and need for revenge…in all those skeleton closets and trash cans and addictions and idols…in those places…yes in the darkest places… you find the blinding light of the intimacy of Jesus…standing right there with His arms open…Kabowd.
Are you getting this?
This is why you can be glorious. This is how you can know that Jesus makes you glorious. This is what it means to experience the Glory of God. The substance of things. The quality of things. It is where God speaks to us at His level.
So I recommend each and every day you declare “show me your Glory God” and just “see” what you might “see.” Don’t be afraid. Just let go and trust Him. You will begin to see glory everywhere (since it is everywhere). Don’t be surprised when it hits you. Take a tissue and a camera. You won’t be disappointed. Oh yeah…leave your religion at home. You don’t need it anymore and it smothers the glory of God.