A certain man lay bedridden with a serious illness, and it appeared that his death was near. In her fear, his wife summoned a hakim, the local town doctor.
The hakim tapped around on the patient and listened for more than half an hour. He checked his pulse, put his head on the man’s chest, turned him onto his stomach and then his side and back, raised the man’s legs and body, opened his eyes, and looked in his mouth. Finally, with a great deal of conviction the hakim said, “My dear woman, unfortunately I must give you sad news. Your husband has been dead for two days.”
At this very moment the ailing man raised his head in shock and whimpered anxiously, “No, my dearest, I am still alive!”
The wife pushed her husband back down onto the pillow with her hand and replied with irritation, “Be quiet! The hakim, a doctor, is an expert. He ought to know!”
We start with three propositions:
1. Most people believe in God simply because they cannot imagine what would fill up the empty space in their mind if some image of God were not there. To imagine that God does not exist presupposes some sort of God image already present in the mind.
2. Most of us pray only because they want to feel better. Most of us don’t desire a genuine encounter with God. To genuinely encounter God is a life shattering experience.
3. Most of us spend most of our spiritual life carefully maintaining a safe distance from the real presence of God, while maintaining an atmosphere reminiscent of God, and an image of God that is mostly borrowed from others who we perceive as being authorities.
There is a booming industry in literature by and about the Christian “mystics”. It’s fun to read about someone else’s experiences. It soothes us to think that they are somehow “different” than us.
Truthfully, most of the great “mystics” were and are the same as anyone else. Encountering God mostly involves letting go of everything we think God is.
Most of us are constantly encountering God, but seem unaware of that anything at all happened. We have erected so many barricades against God that it takes some undoing to open our minds to God’s reality.
I’m convinced that many believers have had deep encounters with God, but don’t believe that it could have happened, because it fell outside the parameters of what they have been taught is possible.
Most of what we believe is valid only to serve as tools to help us grow in relationship to God.
Yet we hold on to doctrines and beliefs long after they have ceased to serve.
Think of this; Do you think that reading the Bible serves an encounter with God? Many would say so. Yet the Bible you or I might read has been through a whole chain of translations, each of them answerable to their financial sponsors. Most believers are cautioned that they don’t have the capacity to understand the Bible by themselves. It is necessary to have it explained by the professionals, be they protestant, catholic, strawberry, or chocolate. In other words, the Church does not want anyone to run the risk of encountering God. We are told we can’t trust our experience, but we can trust the Objective Word of God. And yet, the everything in the Bible started as an experience. The written word of the Bible consists totally of God speaking to people through experiences. Only later after it was reflected upon, was it written down to become canonical. Any time that we are told “We have to believe this, or we can’t believe that”, we are being kept in ignorance. We should especially beware of those who smugly tell us that they believe the “Whole Word of God”, as though their revelation is a cut above the rest.
In truth, God comes to those of us who are willing to shed our preconceptions.
Deception comes to those who refuse the love of truth. This is written in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians.
Simone Weil once wrote, “…one can never wrestle enough with God if one does so out of pure regard for the truth. Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms. ”
If we surrender ourselves to the love of truth, there will be a price, but the reward is far greater, the presence and reality of God will be manisfested in our lives.