Learning to see


…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Sometimes what is real is not Real.  What is seen is not what is.  Because there is a difference between the actual and the Real.

God’s synthesis of truth as he brings it to me is always beautiful.  And tough.  It’s beautiful how theologians tell me how to live by faith.  How they tell me this when I thought I was trying to get them to answer some other question I am asking.  That one of them does it to me in person.  That one of them does it to me in his writings, though he himself is now in glory.  This is beautiful too.

Yes, beautiful the way he synthesises his Word for me that I might trace for myself its truth with the strands of a life given over.  But painful too.  Because it comes not only as form, concept woven with doctrine and spiced with clever phrase.  For sure, it comes not only on a page.  I cannot simply offer up my intellectual assent, write a paper, preach a sermon.

No, this synthesis comes as form which he fills.  For the form of knowledge with him is never enough.  If we will let him, he comes to fill form with lived experience.

And so the one who fills what he forms, lately he has been inviting me into the fulness of what was only doctrinal formulation.  He wants me to know more than just form of the Real, its bare contours, theory only of a life by faith.  And that means situations where I am invited to deny the reality of the seen, to declare that Reality which is unseen.

Even in recent days I have been labouring under a dark cloud.  A localised storm of false beliefs that you wouldn’t believe if I told you.  What you might see of me from the outside – even what is objectively verifiable concerning me – these things bear no resemblance to how I see me a lot of the time.  And sometimes we’re talking vast distances between what I believe and what others would say is true, times when even to take another breath means battling the weight of heaviness sitting on my chest, thoughts spiralling in utter disarray.

It could be kind of tragic if you let it.  On the days when breath comes ragged and heart races, tragic is probably what this crushing sense of failure is.  But he’s been showing me that whilst these feelings and beliefs are real, this reality is temporal and illusory.  It may mask the unseen Reality but it cannot negate it.  Like the unending grey of English skies (even in summer!), the pain is real.  But so also is the fact that beyond the English cloud layer the sun is shining in a clear blue sky, hidden though it is.

In the same way, what I am experiencing in my heart is not what God says about me.  Reality and reality don’t match up.  And so this dark cloud, black though it be, is graced invitation to embrace that filling of the form thing which he so likes to do.  It’s not really about the depression itself.  It’s about him creating a moment of decision, opportunity to learn to respond in faith to Reality as his Word defines it, instead of reacting in fear to the transient reality of things seen.

You know, those theologians have been pretty insistent in their way.  Or maybe it’s Jesus I have to blame.  But, either way, it seems a shame to waste all they’ve been teaching about the form of a life lived by faith when Jesus is giving me such a great context to experience it for myself.  So I’m choosing to embrace moments like these where my reality and Reality as God speaks it diverge.  In a very halting way, I’m learning to establish – quite mechanically as it happens – a habit of preferring by faith what he declares to be Reality over what I see with my eyes.  And, sixteen years into this Jesus-thing, I think that in establishing these patterns I might finally be discovering the basics of the faith.

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