We tend to live our lives on the surface: buying and selling, marrying and raising children, accumulating experiences and stuff, getting educated, employed, and entertained with movies, music, and media of all forms. All the while there’s a steady drip of political, economic, environmental, and international news that gives us a sense of unease. In the midst of all this there are a myriad of issues and needs crying out for our attention as our culture and world feels as if its being torn apart: anxiety, teen suicide, male loneliness, gun violence, economic challenges, racism, depression, environmental challenges, are just the tip of the iceberg. Responding to the multiple symptoms of brokenness both in ourselves and our world can be like playing whack-a-mole. It’s exhausting, anxiety inducing, and disempowering. Then, in our own state of burnout or low level depression, we become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
There’s an entirely different reality all around us though. Though it’s unfolding in time and space it testifies of a deep eternal essence present as a joyful healing force in this world. We see it in the eyes of a sleeping child, content in her mother’s arms. It’s in the wildness of a flock of geese flying overhead, guided by God knows what, they’re collectively seeking the next chapter and in the process contributing to the well being of the planet; as are the Orca whales, and pack of wolves. The seed is breaking through the soil with an alchemy that will turn sunshine into food, which then becomes fuel for my brain to write this, yours to read. Sunrise. Sunset. Seasons. Rain. Snow. Tulips in March after a brutal winter. The ongoing miracles of life which saturate our senses every day, every moment even, if we pay attention.
This latter, higher reality has the deeper magic as its source. It’s what the Bible calls “the word” or in its original language, the logos:
In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God
and the Word as God
He was in the beginning with God
All things came into being through him…
In him was life, and the life was the light of humankind
This declaration reveals that there’s a Source behind all that beauty, order, symmetry, interdependency, and life. Our Creator’s intention is that we live out from that Source, called “word”, “logos”, “divine spirit” as our animating source. It’s our Creator’s intention that we display the character of the logos, that we display beauty, wisdom, charity, grace, strength, interdependency, fierce love that crosses boundaries, breaks walls, and is without condition. Displaying this divine life is what it means to be fully human. We become physical expressions of the ”logos” that created and sustains the universe.
Except we don’t do this. This divine calling has been hijacked, and the evidence is hard to miss. We’ve become masters of death, as the testimonies of wars throughout history reveal, and our technologies of war have brought us to the brink of us destroying ourselves. We’re destroying our environment too, as we build economic systems dependent on people consuming the earth at unsustainable rates. Hunger, genocide, human trafficking, and closer to home, the general sense of busyness and consuming and emptiness that plague us all testify of the distance between our experience and our truest calling. In spite of the divine life coursing through this world, we‘re often unable to even see it, let alone believe it, let alone submit to it, allow ourselves to be formed by ‘it’ (which is really not an “it” or force at all but a divine being).
CS Lewis calls this an expression of ‘deeper magic’ in his Chronicles of Narnia. It’s woven through his Space Trilogy too with the notion that most of humanity is living on the surface of things, largely if not totally, oblivious to the power of the spirit coursing through the universe, and the trees and animals, and yes, even through our own human hearts! When we see it, surrender to it, and purpose to live by its power, we begin the real transformative journey, and its what I think the Bible really means when Jesus talks about making “disciples.” It’s not a matter of unscrewing heads, filling them with doctrines, and sending them into the world equipped to argue about the validity of Christ. It’s awakening them to their deepest and truest identity because once awakened, we’ll begin to live out from that identity, and when we do, every single thing about our lives will begin to change for the better.
I’m not writing about this problem to help “unbelievers,” though if it helps I’m glad. I’m writing to we who say we believe, because our enslavement to the delusion that this world is the deepest reality is so ubiquitous, so all pervasive, that I’m convinced we don’t even know how widely we’re missing the mark. We think that being a Christ follower consists of church attendance, upholding a sexual ethic, and defending a few doctrines about who Jesus really is. Maybe for some it also includes addressing systemic issues of various sorts, from poverty to race to environment. These, and right doctrines, are the Christian life. But largely, our lives are not just obligated by buying, selling, taxes, entertainment, and the pursuit of new things - we're often defined by these, as if they're the deepest reality, as if doctrines and a few behaviors are pasted onto our otherwise mainstream lives, and that's what it means to follow Christ.
Not according to the Bible. Paul says that “it pleased God to reveal his Son in me” which means that the ultimate verification of our faith is found in the extent to which we’re allowing the divine “logos” which is alive within us to so control us, so fill us, that our lives display divine and eternal realities because we are the actual presence of those realities in our interactions, our choices, our relationships.
Let’s say you have this seed of divine life in you. Every once in a while you become vitally aware of the reality that you’re a child of God, that you’re God’s “offspring,” and “partakers of the divine nature” as the Bible says. Perhaps you’re aware of it in a moment of meditation, or as you sit with someone who’s dying and watch them penetrate the veil as spirit leaves body, or maybe its in a moment when you have a salmon on your line and at the moment it breaks the water a bald eagle grabs it, breaks the line, and flies away with supper for the family. Or it’s a sunset, or worship service, or moment of confession and forgiveness. Whatever it is, you know that you know that you know - this world is at the least sourced by, if not saturated with, divine life. Keep going, and you’ll realize that you too, at your deepest and most fundamental self, are offspring of the divine, a partaker of divine nature, united with the glory of Christ himself as your essential seed of identity.
For me at least, the moments when those realizations move out of the intellect and into the affect (the emotions), everything changes! There’s a sense of peace utterly unmoored from the state of the world, and even from the state of my own body. I have this sort of experiential sense that I’m truly in union with my Creator who loves me, is for me, and desires my surrender so that this Divine life can find expression through me.
Such moments are really amazing but they rarely last long, and I believe this is because of what’s revealed in the Biblical parable of the seed and sower. There’s a good seed, surely. But there’s a force at work, both in the world, and in my own soul, seeking to prevent that good work of charity, wholeness, wisdom, love, justice, generosity and that sense of freedom that comes from literally feeling as if you’re being held by divinity - there’s a force in the world seeking to prevent that reality from ever finding the light of day. It’s an evil force, surely, and it’s real.
It shows up, for example, when I touch on this reality of my union with God during meditation. The sense of it so powerful! Rather than resting there, though, my mind interrupts with thoughts like, “how can you turn this into a class?” “should you write a book about this?” “I wonder what exact conditions are necessary to achieve this realization? Maybe what I ate last night was key, or maybe the fact that I got eight hours of sleep. I wonder…etc etc”. Then…. Ugh!! That simple sense of union, of being held, of being loved, it’s been stolen away. And I didn’t even change subjects! I just tried to quantify it, or monetize it, or analyze it, and poof! It’s gone.
As I bring this to a close, I‘d like to offer some questions I’ll hope to answer in the days ahead with subsequent posts:
Is this really God, or just a chemical reaction in the brain?
Can you ground this experience and reality more deeply in scripture?
What beliefs and practices are helpful in moving toward the experience of this reality as a default norm, right in the midst of shopping and traffic jams and sick kids?
I’ve not written for quite a while here! I believe that’s more because I’m having these kinds of experiences and encounters with God, and I’m struggling to explain it in ways that will invite more than offend. I’ve come to the conclusion that “not offending“ is no longer possible, if it ever was, so I’ve decided to share my experiences and how I believe they’re rooted in historic orthodox, Biblically informed Christianity, even though some will disagree. I look forward to your comments, and hope you’ll join me on the journey because what’s far better than believing in union with God, or teaching about union with God, or arguing about union with God is experiencing it. It’s deep magic though and there’s a thick veil hiding it from many, even (perhaps even especially) those in church!