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Through My Lens

October 22, 2011

Friday was a day off from school.  Time to read.  Time to think.


Anyone who knows me at all knows I think a lot, some would suggest too much.  Many things fuel my thinking, but certainly my reading is one of the most significant.  Books are for me rich mines, the depths of which can be worked for immeasurable wealth.  While certainly scripture is to be the mother lode for a Christian, there are a host of other veins.  Many authors have worked explicitly and creatively with biblical themes and symbols.  The strong religious themes in great literature teach valuable lessons and bring faith into focus.  Even lesser works contain a measure of truth.

Most recently I have been exploring a treatise on why individuals believe in the particular way they do, based on Myers-Briggs Personality Theory.  I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say that theory has had the clear ring or truth for me since I first explored it almost forty years ago.  Its personal implications for me are both far-reaching and profound.

Indeed I am a thinker, but those who know me well recognize that thinking is not my primary way of perceiving and processing information about the world around me.  For I firmly believe that the heart has reasons that the mind may not be able to comprehend, and therefore it is through a kind of “sixth sense”—my intuition, my gut feelings, my hunches, my imagination—that I choose to look at the world and decide just what it is that what I am experiencing means.  What might be is far more important than what is.  It is not so much events but the implications of those events that matter to me.   This preference is not better than any other; it is merely my preference.  It always has been.

Seeing things through this lens affects my faith.  But although I approach it as all else in my life through a “sixth sense,” my faith never abandons my intellect.  I never cease to think, to explore and to question.   At times I need to weigh my thinking against the thinking of others, needing iron against which to sharpen my iron.  I need to hear other possibilities, for my faith is full of possibilities.  I live in divine discontentment, knowing that a better world is more than just a future reality, but indeed a real present possibility.

To me God is very personal, and from my own experience I know that He is compassionate and forgiving, loving and very near.  In fact He is as near as my breath, for He lives in me.  I know His capacity for loving acceptance is infinite.  Jesus tells me through scripture that His kingdom is at hand and He calls me to follow Him to promote God’s love, justice and peace, echoing the dictum so succinctly expressed in Micah 6:8:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

You will notice that act, love and walk are action verbs.  Thus for me, as for Dag Hammarskjold, “the road to holiness passes through the world of action.”  It is my engagement with the world that sustains me on my spiritual journey.  Jesus calls me to work to break down the barriers that separate us from Him and from others, and to hold together the disparate parts of creation, for all creation groans as it eagerly awaits salvation.   He tells me that I am to love God with every aspect of my being and to love others as I love myself.  And while I do not understand His commands completely, I try to be obedient as best I am able, knowing that is enough, and trusting that He will guide me further and further into the truth as I become ready to appreciate it.

To me the Bible is not a collection of books, an untidy assemblage of fragmented bits that have been interpreted and reinterpreted until it is almost impossible to extricate them from later traditions about them.  It is a grand unfolding narrative with an overarching storyline that explains the way things are, how they have come to be so, and what they will ultimately be.  It is the history of creation, of the human race, and as Bonhoeffer put it, “the holy history of God on earth.”  It involves me in that history as an essential and responsible actor.  It is the story of God’s relationship with me.

But it is more than that.  It is the living word, dynamic and ever changing in the sense that if I have ears to hear and trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it always has new truths for me.  For me, these truths form the basis for new ideas, new ways to live out my spiritual journey.  But God’s great truths are God’s, and therefore beyond our human capability to grasp completely.  For now we see through a glass, darkly.

You may not agree with this approach, and you need not.  You are different people, seeing the world and God through different lenses than I.  No one focus is any more “right” or “wrong”, it is just different.  Just as each of the gospel writers put a different slant on Jesus message, so do we all.

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