Facing France on the English side of the Strait of Dover, brilliant white cliffs tower majestically over cold waters that lap at their base 350 feet below. When seen from the strait, the cliffs strike one with a sense of awe. They are high, and they impress with a seemingly foreboding might. Indeed, the foreboding is apt, because the cliffs are dangerous. In recent years, many people have died while taunting the patience of the cliffs. Often, these people are taking selfies when they tumble to their deaths. Their failure lies in their perception that the cliffs are solid and strong. But they’re not. They are made of a chalky, finely powdered limestone. When a person gets too close to the edge, the cliff can give way. A portion of it sloughs off, and brutally takes whatever is standing above it straight down to the narrow beach at its bottom.
This very thing happens to us whenever we lean on our own understanding instead of on the word of God (Proverbs 3:5). To lean on our own wits can put us on a potentially unstable, tumbling path to death (Proverbs 14:12). Our human understanding can crumble around us, collapse, and drag us down to terrible injury, or worse. In the modern world, our incomplete understanding causes us to place our hope in fragile things. Ironically, much of what we place our hope in has the appearance of might, and depth, and height. But it’s really only chalky limestone piled high enough to impress our senses, or our neighbor’s incomplete view of our status. Much of it is dangerously unstable. Just consider the potential for personal destabilization found in the debt ratio that a staggering number of people carry, and the manner in which the economy can turn sour in a moment’s notice. Ponder how much work we put into college, or the pursuit of wealth, or the advancement of a career, or the purchase of a status boosting automobile, or the best lawn on the block, or the prettiest life on Instagram. None of these things have lasting value. They all change, rot, or breakdown. Economies falter, or viruses come, fear spreads, jobs disappear, businesses go bankrupt, or you eventually die and meet an eternity far greater or far worse than anything you can experience on earth. Too much of what we pursue is hay, wood, and stubble that will be turned to ash at the first sign of fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
How much better is it to pursue something of greatest beauty, eternal value, and solid depth, towering height, and awe producing might? We seem perversely eager to suffer for a college degree, or a promotion, or a new car, all of which are temporary, and frequently impose on us a kind of slavery, or bondage. Would it be better to cast those pursuits aside, and chase after, and suffer for, freedom and glory (Romans 8:18-21)? Is it better to have the glory of a selfie on a majestic, chalky cliff, or to experience the glory of a relationship with the one who personifies glory, and who created the cliff?