January 26, 2008

The Larger Story

I just read this - "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Isaac Newton

Boy, do I resonate with this quote! When I think of all the many shoulders I have stood on, and will stand on, since I read a lot of books ... I really think I do see further than I ever could have just living my own little story.

I think I have a good grasp of the flow of history. From my wide range of reading I've learned a good part of the larger story of life. I don't know if I would score high if I took a test on all the 'facts' of history, but I've lived in enough shoes (and bare feet) through story, that from their shoulders I have an understanding of the cultures that drove people to do whatever it was we know them for in history - why discoveries, why advances in science, why progress and why lack of progress, why wars ...

Now, to move this into more of a spiritual perspective ... I have had a very real experience of God. I know Him and have felt Him, and from that experience I started questioning 'formation versus information' - what if one came to God through formation, through experience - is information important? Over my many years I've done lots of theological study and reading too - I have lots of information.

As a Mentor Mom at a MOPS sleep-over, I was up early and looking for something to read, and there weren't many books in this home, but I found CS Lewis' writings bound all together in one large book. I don't know why but I started reading at the beginning of Part IV in his Mere Christianity. And it was what I needed for that moment and it applies to this subject.

A man told CS Lewis he had "no use for all that stuff (theology) ... I know there's a God. I've felt Him: out alone in the desert one night ... To anyone who's met the real thing they (dogmas and formulas about Him) seem so petty, pedantic and unreal!"

CS Lewis said he agreed with the man, thinking he probably did have a real experience of God. And in turning to Bible study type things and "Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real.

"But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America."

Will I get anywhere by simply feeling the presence of God, by only having a formational experience? Will others?

My belief is that that formational experience, if that's the starting place for some people, will bring people to curiosity about wanting to know more about God, so the information we Christians feel so strongly about will come. My hope is that in our new era, call it "post-modern", for no other term is given yet, that the possibility of us loving on people, and God Himself loving people into the Kingdom, will bring about a new way of gaining information.

I feel I've stood on the shoulders of hundreds of people who really were/are in touch with God - experienced God. Standing on the shoulders of many real Christians helps us see even further - helps us see and hopefully want to enter into the even larger story. HIStory is God's entering the world's story, but the Trinitarian God is outside of our measurable chronos time. God's out-of-earthly kairos time penetrates, breaking through chronos: in a child's play, an artist at work, a person in the desert ... usually a un-selfconscious place.

Oh, I do want to see further than my own story. I want to be a part of the eternal large drama.
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