Frederick Faber once wrote about one of the most challenging paradoxes of the holy life; that God is best known in the heart rather than the intellect. Darkness to the intellect/But sunshine to heart, wrote Faber. It is a paradox that I, like Jacob, have been wrestling with. I am someone who grew up in a largely secular
culture and was mostly schooled in secular halls. I left high school to attend CEGEP (where I am still technically viewed as a drop-out and
failure), which I left to attend the Ottawa University (B.A. 2006) which I
then left to attend Concordia University (M.A.2008). After a time of searching for employment, I eventually settled on buying abookstore and running it. I spent countless hours sipping tea and talking literature, philosophy and even a bit of history, with people. Like many in such a position, I grew proud of my intellect; too haughty for God, who I found easy to brush away.
That is, until I encountered HIM.
Early in my faith life, I clung to people like Timothy Keller because he was trying to bridge the exact gap I found myself in. (I still adore his writings, but his writings and sermons do far less for me now than they did when I first came to my adult faith.) I had learned to trust reason and to rely on my own mind. So, the question of whether I could reconcile the world as I know it to the world as the Bible knows it, was a central question.
That stance may not be right. It may even be arrogant, as it puts its holder above God and the Bible and in a position to judge. But I believe that is the spot many people new to the faith find themselves; I don’t think we can blame them for that. I know the apologists out there are doing a good job of helping people in that position. I am most grateful for the work they do and the influence they had on me early on.
What I have been thinking about lately is the next step on the ladder, or on my ladder at least. The step that drills down on sayings like: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” (Isa. 55:8). This is hard to hear for someone so accustomed to putting their faith in thoughts, theories, and ideas. It is also hard for someone who believes the world is progressing and that it is becoming a better place to live in than ever before.
Another challenging passage along these lines is found in Romans: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2). The patterns of this world are what I spent my youth learning and conforming to and now I am called on to leave them behind.
These do not mean I need to check my mind at the door, and yet they do mean that I must embrace a certain level of mystery. Like the mystery that God could somehow become a man, or would want to. What I think it comes down to is this: very few people have ever been cleverly argued or debated into the faith (even if such work can be extremely helpful in the early stages, as it was for me). Many people have felt something . . . a melting of their heart, the movement of the spirit, the voice of God, calling them into the faith.
In this era of anti-establishment and anti-authority, the world is full of stubborn people like me, arrogant and overly concerned about the power of their minds. In an age that loves to get caught up in certain questions of doctrine around life issues (Euthanasia or abortion debate anyone???) and lifestyle choices (Gay marriage/ordination debate anyone???), we Christians are being called into a radical stance, the stance of submission, the stance of obedience to God. This is never easy, but as I travel its road, I find it fruitful to try to humble myself. While I am far from perfect and far from done, as Robert Frost put it:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep . . . .
I know that I am to travel on. I’m not sure where you are on your journey (obviously) but I am sure of this, you are not called to give up. You are called to keep pushing, to keep reading scripture, to keep praying, and to keep seeking God. If you need someone to help out or to walk along side of, there are plenty of us who would be happy to take the journey with you.