PT. 2 OF THE INWARD JOURNEY: The Engagement With God
Elizabeth O’Connor in her work, Journey Inward, Journey Outward writes, “Whereas no one can know God who does not know himself, it does not follow that knowledge of self is knowledge of God. God speaks through the self, but he is not the self. He can come to us through the revelations of the unconscious, but He is not the unconscious.” She also writes that St. Teresa of Avila, a 16th Century Spiritual Classicist, said, “As I see it, we shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God.” Thus, in that God knew us in our mother’s womb (Ps. 8), His part is done. Our part is to know ourselves well enough that we can then know God.
When I was a very young Christian, setting aside a time to pray to God was taught to me by my family of believers – my parents, Sunday School teachers, neighbors, and friends. When I reached my teens, well-immersed in the life of my Church and our own family devotion times, nonetheless I always seemed to feel terribly alone, isolated, and of course I ‘looked ugly’ gazing in my bathroom mirror. The hymns of my youth enhanced some of those feelings: “I come to the garden ALONE”, “What a Friend we have in Jesus, ALL OUR SINS AND GRIEF TO BEAR” tugged at me. There was never, never anyone to talk to, so I prayed. I prayed walking to school, between classes at Peoria Central High, alone in my basement at home. I learned quietly that I didn’t have to wait to go to Church to pray. I also learned over time that I could say just about anything to Jesus. Even that divine silence, the “no quick answer” prayers, and sometimes, “Bill, I’ve heard you, but the answer is still no!” always came to me. There was a presence. That gift from God has followed me all the way to the Urban Outpost. We cannot intervene in the lives of the people who are “the least of these”, unless this linkage with our triune God is practiced. Elizabeth O’Connor writes again: “There is a profound sense in which our whole life is prayer, whether we strive for it or not, so that much of what we wail and complain about is an answer to requests we are not conscious of making” WHAT???? If I’m talking to you, how can I pray, hold my train of thought, and move forward with the conversation?? It’s like the old childhood game of “rub your tummy with one hand, and pat your head with the other’” and the grandparents roared with laughter at your attempts. Prayer is like that if you are to sustain it such that it becomes your beating heart.
How do we know God in tangible ways? I find it terribly sad that many denominations across the world have reduced God’s word to a ‘revealed authority’, a collection of ‘sayings’, cute stories about ‘neighbors’. The Word is rarely seen as ‘inspired’ anymore. The Word is not seen as ‘unfailing’ anymore. Our theologians are brash to say that there are thousands of errors in translation of the Gospels alone! So how can any of it been seen as ‘inerrant’?? However, the stories of it persist – through at least 25 centuries of ‘not a printing press in town’!! Fragments were salvaged, lost, and then salvaged again. The Word kept saying to civilization after civilization, wars upon wars, purges, burnings, torture, mayhem, and holocaust, “I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD”. As for me and my house, I stand on this Word. It is my “Go to”. I don’t have time to challenge, question, or wonder about it. There must be a rock, some absolute for me to hang my hat on. For me, it is God’s Word. I do the reading. God does the instructing. The Holy Spirit does the teaching, Jesus points me down those roads – the Damascus Road, the Road to Emmaus, and the Jericho Road. To know God fully, no day should be spent apart from the Word. Whether a passage is recalled from memory, read again for the fiftieth time, or studied verse by verse, knowing God, being engaged with Self and WITH God, will find its way into our hearts as our knowledge of the Word increases. I’ve been reading the Gospel of John for almost a year now. I’ve ‘journaled’ via Face Book, my journeys through this Gospel. I’m still not done yet. As I recall those passages I’ve read, absorbed, studied, journaled, and prayed through, every time, something fresh & new smacks this 71 year-old face with new understandings, something relevant for today, something ‘I’d never thought about before’. There is no doubt at all within my experience of God today that His Word truly is a “Living Word”. On your journey this week, there are two things you’ll need for the road. Pray on & make sure you take the Word with you!
Dr. Bill Gerber