Can God Be Experienced? ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, July 10, 2006

Can God Be Experienced?

Spiritual light

At age eighteen, in the middle of a gorgeous summer, I realized I was supposed to savor the glory of God. This was slightly perplexing. Summer—that I knew how to enjoy. Blacktop hoops, hanging with friends, working hard and playing in the sun. Enjoying summer is elementary; enjoying God seemed advanced. To enjoy divine glory was the goal. But how did one “get at” God?

I labored under the modern conception of “facts” as miscellaneous details piled in a game box, a kind of sterile trivia. The average fact is highly irrelevant to life.

I believed in Christ. I loved him. I knew he was powerful, merciful, perfect—“glorious.” But to “taste” that glory? To apprehend it in a more experiential way? I wanted something I could wade in, or taste, or inhale. I wanted tangibility.

My senses—the senses I used to enjoy other things, like Gatorade™ and lakes—balked at the concept of savoring God. I found myself fighting an instinctual disconnect. Tasting God seemed like smelling colors. Somehow, I knew this wasn’t the case, but I struggled to get past it.

I saw that Christ’s glory—the glory that satisfied like miraculous H20, if you could get a drink—was centered in the truth of his character. And since I had no immediate, sensory experience with Christ, I would have to apprehend that truth mentally, at least at first.

This took awhile to soak in.

I labored under the modern conception of “facts” as miscellaneous details piled in a game box, a kind of sterile trivia. The average fact is highly irrelevant to life. Since when do congruent angles move hearts? Since when do people weep for joy over the evening news? In this info-bit context, I struggled to bridge the gap between God-“facts” and some kind of experiential “glory.”
I found myself returning to an ironic place—the land of relevant truth. The grass hadn’t looked this green since I’d abandoned my tricycle, and the sky shone like it had from the jungle gym.

How could “information” about Christ translate into tasted goodness, flavor in the soul, fiery and sweet? It had to enter through the mind, apparently—but first I had to let Truth reemerge. My preconceptions had obscured it, relegated it to list form. But stripped of its newspaper wrappings, truth shone with its own unrivaled glory. It was beautiful indeed, but on its own terms. Today, if I found truth lounging in the Sports section or promenading on the Morning Show, I would feel betrayed.

For the truth, I discovered, was not temporarily helpful or momentarily entertaining. It was not “interesting,” thank God. I was pleased to discover that truth defied the casual slickness of FYI, and I was elated to realize that Dan Rather and People Magazine never featured it. This ultimate, soul-filling truth defied the sophistry of pundits, periodicals, columnists and clinics. Truth was the home I lived in, not the phone book where I was listed. The truth surrounded me. I walked in it, breathed it, climbed up through it. The truth had everything to do with me, and I had everything to do with it.

Therefore, after an interval of some years, I found myself returning to an ironic place—the land of relevant truth. The grass hadn’t looked this green since I’d abandoned my tricycle, and the sky shone like it had from the jungle gym. With amazement, I watched the tedium of the information age fade.

I was developing an amateurish custom of stumbling on the truth; that summer it was furthered, by happy accident, and I forced myself to keep on going. I sensed that something waited up ahead—a Truth too big for daily slices; a mind that words could hardly sketch; a Fact that defied all “facts.”

That Fact seemed radiant as stars and hard as bone. Smash all the decade’s information to bits, assemble it as a mosaic, and what would I find? A puzzle that could occupy me for five lifetimes but bore me in five minutes. Journey toward this great Fact for 80 years, and what would I discover? Glory.

Glory himself, in his original and mysterious and non-dictionary sense. A Being so multi-faceted, so huge, so deep, that I could only brush at the surface of him—and be transformed anyway. A mere taste, a partial apprehension, would color my character. A 12-ounce drink would enliven me for a lifetime, and after that…? An oasis, a great revealing.

I was learning that truth was phenomenal and not merely empirical. It possessed a primal energy and magnetism, it walked the earth. It could be met and tasted after all.

::

Related post: Show Us Jesus (How do we "see the unseen?")



Like what you read? Don't forget to bookmark this post or subscribe to the feed.

3 comments:

Will Robison said...

I feel a sense of deja vu.

Iambic Admonit said...

This post is absolutely beautiful. So true, honest, lush, lovely, and difficult. Do you think that your search for enjoying God is the same, or analgous to, Lewis's flashes of Joy?

Ariel said...

Thanks for the kind words, Iambic. And what a great question. I'm having a good time thinking about my answer.

I think that one reason I like Lewis so much is that the experience he describes is very close to my own. One great difference is that Lewis's journey to Christ was paved with these sehnsucht moments, whereas my awareness of piercing joy emerged after I was already a Christian (I believed at an early age).

But as I continue to try and walk toward Christ, and grow into Jesus's pattern, I read Lewis and say, "Yes, that's right. That's it exactly." There are flashes of beauty and joy in life, but they have a haunting, fleeting quality.

Nothing on earth feels perfectly right because we haven't yet looked Jesus in the eyes.

 

Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife