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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Now see in a mirror dimly ...

My eyes are getting worse.  I went to the prayer room in our church for my afternoon prayer.  I was going to do Lectio Divina, reading and praying Psalm 23.  I opened my small Bible and then my glasses case.  Whoops!  The case was empty.  I must have left the glasses down in the hall in my office, on the desk.  

I opened the Bible.  Holding it at a distance, I was fine.  But, just for fun, I brought the text closer.  I realized that up close (a distance I used to have no trouble with) I could not see it all.  I knew it was Psalm 23, New Revised Standard Version, but looking it at it, I could not make out anything.  My eyes have become that bad.  So, I held it at arms length and had my prayer time.

It made me wonder though, are my eyes really that bad?  I don't mean my eyeballs.  I mean the eyes of my heart.  Is God at work right around me, in the life I live every day?  Is God touching people and trying to touch me through people?  Am I missing it because I spiritually nearsighted?  

The brilliant love chapter closes with these lines:  
"8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).

What did the Apostle mean 'we know only in part?'  What parts did he not know?  What parts do we not know?  Dallas Willard believes the Kingdom of Heaven is not far off, but simply on a different perceptual plane. Willard supposes the Kingdom is no farther away than the stretch of my arm, but I only see into when God reveals it.  And he wants to.  God wants to show me the Kingdom around me.  God calls me into right now, even as I live this life.  

Jesus goes to prepare a place for us (John 16:3).  In his magnificent book Divine Conspiracy Willard develops his thought of Heaven around us.  In A Fine-Tuned Universe Alister Mcgrath mentions string theory, the idea from physics that there are (or were) 10 or 11 dimension, far more than the three our senses can perceive (p.115).  Willard's implication is that this indeed true, and than God is the one who occupies and fills these dimensions.  There is no empty space.   All around us, there is spiritual activity.  Frank Peretti also imagines this idea in his novel This Present Darkness.  

But, can make ourselves more perceptive?  If God is going to reveal himself as Jesus did for James, John, and Peter at the transfiguration (Mark 9:2ff and parallels), can we do anything in developing our prayer sensitivity to increase the odds of us receiving such a revelation? My first short answer is "no."  God will reveal what God decides to reveal at God's initiative and no amount of spiritual dullness or dimness on our part will prevent us from seeing what God wants us to see.  Conversely, God will withhold what God desires to withhold, and no amount of work in the spiritual disciplines ('Spiritual training' Willard calls it) will enable us to see things God keeps hidden.  No, we cannot develop through spiritual disciplines and thus polish up the glass that is so dim.

However, we can sharpen our spiritual senses.  We can, through lectio divina, intense, focused worship, Bible reading, and other disciplines heighten our own spiritual sensitivity.  We cannot make God talk.  But we can be alert listeners when God chooses to talk.  I do believe we can miss it if our head is in a fog of earthly things, profane and sin-stained.  We need to "seek things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1).  When we do, we hear.  And we know.  And even God blesses us with wonderful Heavenly surprises, they will be of the type that come with being surprised by the familiar, like seeing an old friend after many years.  The surprising joy is soaked in something very recognizable.  Fred Craddock calls this the shock of recognition.  

My eyes will keep getting worse.  Father in Heaven, help me stick with prayer and Bible reading and worship and fellowshipping with strong believers so that day by day, my spirit sharpens.  


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