I can remember from my childhood, mornings where the fog was so thick that it seemed more real than the world that it hid. It wrapped cold and sulking tendrils around me so that I could no longer see the familiar landscape that was home to my family and I. My brothers could be mere feet from me and the only evidence that I would have of their existence was the softened and muted voices of their calling from the fog’s vast nothingness.
There are times when faith seems something akin to that. Faith is a struggling against a fog that limits the experience between the believer and God. The landscape of that kingdom we read about in the bible is hidden away and God’s voice seems muted and softened by the heavy folds of this misty existence.
As I am going through the Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, I can see a similarity to that fog from my childhood memories and experiencing the reality of God. Here are some of Tozer’s words from chapter 4:
It was Canon Holmes, of India, who more than twentyfive years ago called attention to the inferential character of the average man’s faith in God. To most people God is an inference, not a reality. He is a deduction from evidence which they consider adequate; but He remains personally unknown to the individual. “He must be,” they say, “therefore we believe He is.” Others do not go even so far as this; they know of Him only by hearsay. They have never bothered to think the matter out for themselves, but have heard about Him from others, and have put belief in Him into the back of their minds along with the various odds and ends that make up their total creed. To many others God is but an ideal, another name for goodness, or beauty, or truth; or He is law, or life, or the creative impulse back of the phenomena of existence.
These notions about God are many and varied, but they who hold them have one thing in common: they do not know God in personal experience. The possibility of intimate acquaintance with Him has not entered their minds. While admitting His existence they do not think of Him as knowable in the sense that we know things or people.
Christians, to be sure, go further than this, at least in theory. Their creed requires them to believe in the personality of God, and they have been taught to pray, “Our Father, which art in heaven.” Now personality and fatherhood carry with them the idea of the possibility of personal acquaintance. This is admitted, I say, in theory, but for millions of Christians, nevertheless, God is no more real than He is to the non-Christian. They go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle.
Over against all this cloudy vagueness stands the clear scriptural doctrine that God can be known in personal experience. A loving Personality dominates the Bible, walking among the trees of the garden and breathing fragrance over every scene. Always a living Person is present, speaking, pleading, loving, working, and manifesting Himself whenever and wherever His people have the receptivity necessary to receive the manifestation.
If I return to my childhood memories, I can recall that I never doubted that my home was still close by even though I could no longer see it through the fog. If I wanted to experience that reality I had only to wait for the fog to lift or I could make my way through the mist until I came into contact with the concrete steps that lead up to the front porch and then over the threshold of the living room door. It was far quicker to stumble through the shroud of mist than it was to wait for it to lift if I wanted the assurance that home was still there.
Is our Pursuit of God something like that? Are we stumbling through the fog in order to be more assured of His existence?
I wonder if we are sometimes standing in the fog just waiting around for it to lift in order that we can find some hope of His existence.
Maybe I question whether or not we believe in an inference more than a reality of God because there are times when the fog seems so much more real than He does. And our immobility is made of paralysis instead of expectancy. And so, Tozer’s words make me wonder if we (or I) are fully receptive to receive the manifestation of His existence.
If you are reading these words, I wonder if you will take some time and share your struggles with this concept or maybe even your triumphs of experiencing God. Are you searching through the fog or has it been lifted for you?
October has proven to be a month of ‘opportunities’ at my workplace. I am reticent to try to guess at how many hours that I have put in at the office and from home. Hours sitting in front of a pc as I am now except those hours were spent scrutinizing data and processes that were failing to meet expectations and then hours of following up with people all over the world to get things corrected.
When people ask me what I do for work, I tell them I am a professional problem solver because it is a far easier way to describe who I am versus what I do. That description flows outside of my work life and into my home life. My nature is to seek answers to questions and problems are just questions looking for the right answers. Whether its fixing a sink that is stopped up, installing shingles on a roof, changing brakes on a car, or even mulling over philosophical questions – ultimately, the goal is to find the solution to the problem.
In the middle of my busyness this month, I did find time to have lunch with the pastor of the church that my family has been attending for the past month. Let me say that we had a great conversation over some pretty decent barbecue. Chris, the pastor, brought up an interesting topic that I have been mulling over since we spoke over lunch.
I believe the words he used were ‘Dialectic Tension’ when trying to explain the unexplainable… or in my words the logically illogical. Or, maybe, an easier way to understand it is the Mystery of Tension within the Christian Faith.
What does that look like? Think about these things that we tend to think of as everyday terms within the Christian faith:
- Christ was fully God and fully man
- God is three in one (trinity)
- Freewill versus Election
- Grace and Judgment
These are truths that on the surface appear to create a schism, a separation, a divide within logical belief. They are truths that some would try to argue stand opposed to each other but in actuality are concepts that stretch our ability to comprehend. They create wonder and awe. They bring the seeker of understanding to a conclusion that they are not a problem to be solved or a mystery to unravel.
If I take the concept of infinity, you will at once understand the concept of the word, however, you as a finite being can never fully understand what it means for something to be infinite. We are conditioned for eventuality – everything in our experience has a beginning and an end. We are born and then we die. We make a sandwich and then we consume it. We go to the movie, and having watched it, we leave the building. In all of those things we experience the finite. Could we fathom eating a sandwich that could never be consumed? Or watch a movie that never ended? Can we truly understand what it means to live forever?
There is a mystery in the tension between these ideas… whether we are talking about infinity or Christ’s deity.
These thoughts are allowing me to be more fully aware that I do not have to solve the mystery of Christ – that I have to fit Him into some manageable explanation.
There is something exciting and liberating about serving a God that is not created in my image but instead stands in mystery outside of my ability to fully comprehend. How do we respond to God like that who chooses to interject Himself into the patterns of our lives?
Good question. What are your thoughts?