Friday, July 15, 2011

Why Persevere? by Philip Yancey

There is an inherent difference between relating to another human and relating to God. I go to the grocery store and run into a neighbor. Judy just went through a divorce, I say to myself. Seeing Judy prods me to act. I ask about her life, check on her children, maybe invite her to church. "We must get together with Judy and the kids," I tell my wife later that day.

With God, the sequence reverses. I never "see" God. I seldom run into visual clues that remind me of God unless I am looking. The act of looking, the pursuit itself, makes possible the encounter. For this reason, Christianity has always insisted that trust and obedience come first, and knowledge follows.

Because of that difference, I persevere at spiritual disciplines no matter how I feel. I want to know God. And in pursuing relationship, we most come on God's terms, not our own.

Old Testament prophets set our the preconditions for knowing God, as in this verse from Micah: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." The New Testament epistles tell us that acting in loving ways toward God nurtures the relationship and leads toward growth. I do not get to know God, then do God's will; I get to know God by doing that will. I enter into an active relationship, which means spending time with God, caring about the people God cares about, and following God's commands - whether I spontaneously feel like it or not.

"How shall we begin to know You Who are if we do not begin ourselves to be something of what You are?" asked Thomas Merton. God is holy, Other. I can no more get to know God apart from some common ground than I can get to know a Hungarian person apart from common language. Merton adds:

We receive enlightenment only in proportion as we give ourselves more and more completely to God by humble submission and love. We do not first see, then act; we act, then see.... And that is why the man who waits to see clearly, before he will believe, never starts on the journey.

(Grace Notes: July 14th, from Reaching for the Invisible God (89-90))

1 comment:

Jimmy Mangogna said...

Great quote, PK!