For a moment, imagine yourself seated alone on a boat in the center of the most beautiful body of water you have ever seen. With morning yet to break, all that moves are the fish and other wildlife that exist beneath you. But for their occasional trips to the top, we are trapped in a place that twenty-first century pilgrims rarely go: silence. Lacking the technological trappings of our cell-phones and iPods, we become uncomfortable and unsure of this gift of quiet that has been thrust upon us. What do we do with it? Do we embrace and savor it or do we cast it aside?
Now, if we embrace this newfound silence in our lives, then we enter into a state of kenosis (Phil 2:7) where we are able to empty ourselves in order that the Lord is able to speak to us and ponder our hearts. And it is by this embrace, that we become different, more fully alive, and begin to take upon ourselves the very character of God; so much so, that others begin to notice and remark that they sense a change in us. C.S. Lewis once described this life on earth as merely the Shadow Lands, and that the land of reality, light, clarity and substance is the life to come—Heaven. In The Great Divorce, Lewis notes that…
“Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly.”
Along this same theme, in his Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:12), St. Paul reflects that…
“At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”
But what happens when we freely choose to cast God’s presence aside and instead choose to see through a glass darkly? Having now placed God at a distance, our minds begin to wander and ponder the possibilities set before us and we begin to think…
“I can do just about anything and not a single person will ever know it.”
While it is true that each of us may choose to live our lives peering through a glass darkly, partaking in just about every sin conceivable; it is equally true that God, having made us, has the ability to take this glass and rid it of its fog. And in wiping away the unclarity that characterizes each one of us, He is able to see his remarkable handiwork.
Remarkable? Indeed. For God sees beyond the reality of each one of us in the present moment. And while not excusing the sin, He looks to what could and should be. For an example of this, we need look no further than the Great Apostle himself. Surely one of the most learned men of his time, Saul persisted in his persecution of the early followers of Jesus, until, on a quiet and dusty road, he received an embrace from the Lord.
In Acts of the Apostles (9), we are told that Saul “breathed threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” when suddenly, as his journey approached Damascus, a light from heaven flashed about him.
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Now after this experience, Saul found himself blind for three days. But by the end of the third day, the disciple Ananias found him and laid his hands upon him. With the greatest of suddeness, Saul could see. What happened next? We are told that he rose, was baptized, took food, and was strengthened.
But what about the rest of the story? Well, that story is yours and mine. In each of them, our stories are really not so dissimilar from Paul’s, although most likely, less dramatic. In fleeing from the Lord for a time, we weave and bob through the obstacles of life, all the while seeking refuge from our suffering, pain, and addictions. Ultimately though, through our prayers and the prayers of others, we find our way back, as did the Prodigal Son, to a loving Lord. And in our return, we are welcomed by a loving God who not only embraces us, but knows us and seeks the greatest good for our lives.