I just came back from a late afternoon walk along the canal. The water level is way down. Ice is clouding the water’s surface. This time of year the days are short and afternoon shadows are long. I love this time of day. Slanting rays distinguish each blade of the wild grasses. Strangely the dried grasses appear dusky at noon, but radiant now, hyper-real, like a surrealist painting. Everything is bent by light and shadows. My five-feet-three reality becomes a lanky, svelte ten-foot-three, all legs. Did I mention that I love this time of day?
If I were Julie Andrews singing a list of my favorite things, shadows would make the list. Strangely the fine art galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico, don’t thrill me as much as the shadows that fall on adobe walls. I feel the same pleasant frisson when shadows complicate the vertical austerity of an aspen forrest in snow, latticing angles of blue and purple.
The Bible is full of shadows. The law and the Tabernacle were Old Testament shadows that something greater and better was coming. The writer of Hebrews makes this clear: “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities…” (Hebrews 10:1). “They serve a copy and a shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5).
God gave shadowy pictures of the marvelous GOOD that was coming. The shadows were clues and promises. The danger is in mistaking the shadows for the Substance, the promise for the Prize. “These are a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17).
As I read the Bible, shadows still fall across the page. These shadows alert me to realities, future and invisible. God is near—though invisible. Heaven is real—though future. God’s promises are sure though all not yet fulfilled. The Holy Spirit lives in me but His influence is imperfectly expressed until heaven. So until then, I let the shadows point to Christ and all that is mine because I belong to Him. I will abide in His shadow until that fullness of time when I will see Him. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).
Live the Mystery.