Mont Saint Michel, Normandy
From a distance Mont Saint Michel, on the coast of Normandy, France, looks more like the City of God than anything I have ever seen. Surrounded by the North Sea until low tide, this ancient city brings to mind the Holy City mentioned in the Book of the Revelation which one day will descend from above.
But as one gets closer to Mont Saint Michel and the crowds, the repair work, and the venders come into full view and the mind shifts back to realism. There is no such thing as a City of God on earth. There are only cities. Paul insists that we can see spiritual realities like the City of God, but only dimly and through an imperfect looking glass. In other words, Mont Saint Michel can remind me of the City of God but it can never measure up to what Heaven will be like.
The truth is that the people, things, or institutions we idolize will only prove to be disappointments. The majestic mountaintop we see from a distance is only a pile of rocks once you ascend to the peak. And from the mountaintop the real beauty ends up being the valley from which you began the hike.