Reaching for the Beyond
Joe Clark, Dec 25, 2001

For a year or more this phrase has passed through my mind from time to time. It is in many respects one of the mottoes of my life and how I often think. I'd like to explain this concept briefly using a few examples.

Take stargazing. This could be one of the clearest physical examples. Stargazing is a chance to get away from earthly pursuits for just a bit. For me at least, stargazing is a quick way to gain some perspective and to enjoy some of God's creation. I am reminded of the awesome physics and distance involved in what I am seeing, and at the same time the folklore, the fact that these same stars have been viewed by humans for generations and millennia; and I remember the past joys of stargazing with friends in various situations. Somehow, such a combination of thoughts produces in me a feeling that can best be explained by "reaching for the beyond" -- trying to take life as I know it and infuse it with meaning beyond my normal perspective.

In this Christmas season, we read about the wise men who saw the star of Christ from their homeland, and it prompted them to search out the newborn King. This is a clear picture of my idea of stargazing, I believe. Perhaps our stargazing cannot always lead directly to the King, but that should be the goal -- reaching for the beyond is reaching for the Divine Truth that we so easily lose track of in the midst of the stuff of life and even the glitz and glamour and normalness of church life.

Another example of beyond-ness is church services. There are differences in worship services, with many factors involved. A large factor, to be sure, is my attitude as a worshipper and my mood that day, but the tone is also set in part by the worship leaders, and in some sense by every word that is sung, spoken, or prayed. There are times when the service (including worship, the sermon, and everything in between) seems to be a social gathering. Sure the focus is on God, but it seems as though we are all talking about someone who's not there, and talking to each other. At other times (and more rarely), it really does seem that the worshippers are in one accord, and you can imagine the entire congregation gazing at the sight of God entering and being present in our midst.

One other, more earthly reaching is the reaching for the beyond in interpersonal relationships. I find this principle valuable, perhaps from a purely personal standpoint, when I find the group of people I'm with to be boring or otherwise disagreeable. Reaching beyond in these cases is trying to infuse meaning into the conversation, something that's important to me, and looking for conversation that can help one or both of us to reach for a higher, more noble, more "Divine" even, state of mind than we came with. A couple of the famous things that cause me to react this way are 1) sports and 2) talking about beer. These two topics do not edify me, and do not inspire me to "go beyond" where I am now, but instead cause me to give a hearty, "why do I care." Realizing that to some folks these boring subjects are important does not help much, but it does make me realize that conversation and relating to other people is a form of art, and the goal of that art (like any other) is to reach beyond, to form a stronger friendship, to get to know each other better, to work toward a common goal, or to make a point clear.

So, I don't know if this "reaching for the beyond" makes any more sense now, but maybe it has spurred you on just a bit to think in that regard, and that is really all I can hope for. It is a tough topic to think about, much less to explain, but I think it is one that is beneath much of who we are and how we act, whether we realize it or not. In your days and in your actions, may your mindset be one of reaching for the beyond, reaching for something more real, more pure, more refined than the present. May our lives be filled with striving to reach the goal, not in a stressful sense, but in a sense of intense enjoyment of the striving, realizing that we are drawing closer day by day to the God who created us and to the life that He created us to live.