A couple of weeks ago I led a mission trip up to New England. Part of the trip was spent in Jackman, ME which is pretty far north, about 8 miles from Quebec. There was this beautiful lake there in Jackman and I took this picture there. The lake was so clear and calm that day so I took the picture upside down, just to see how it would work. Since then, this picture has haunted me. At first glance you can't quite tell anything is wrong with it, it looks normal.
You can distinctly make out the cloud shapes, see the outline of the mountains and even catch the blue of the sky. But, the reflection isn’t quite the same. The reflection lacks the overwhelming expanse of the sky. You can see the bottom of the lake as you look closely, covered with smooth stones weathered over time be the natural rhythms of the water. The blue, the light, the clouds, they aren’t really there either, just poor reflections of the real thing. Sometimes life is like that, an upside down reflection. Everything seems to be right, or almost right, but in reality it is just a reflection. The water that day was pretty calm, but if a wind picked up, the reflection would really be hard to see. All those images would be lost.
I fear that many of us are living in an upside down reality. Our images of God, our understanding of the Gospel and righteousness are all upside down. They appear to be right, but if you dig below the surface, or if you look at them when a storm hits, the truth becomes very clear. Some of our churches really feel this way. You come in and everyone seems friendly, the worship is pretty good, and the church may even be growing. But, the DNA of the church is all wrong. There is brokenness and bitterness lingering there below the surface. The pastors and the leaders of the church are disconnected from the people and the Spirit of God seems to followed Elvis and left the building. These are the churches with nice buildings, plenty of staff, a long history of success and whole groups of congregants threatening to leave and start their own church if they don't get their way and a string of pastors who have burnt out or been chewed up and tossed away.
So the question becomes, how do we make sure we are living right side up? We begin by making sure that we dig well below the surface of our own lives and our lives as communities. We can't accept that everything is at it appears to be. That is why we have intentional times of confession, we pray for reconciliation, and we listen to the Spirit of God so that we can understand God's desires for us as his people. It requires genuine searching and as Paul says 'sober judgment' of ourselves and our communities. But, the pay off is that we are reminded that when we exist as a the people of God focused on serving him and one another, there is no ceiling or limit to how God can use us.