Thursday, March 1, 2012

We don’t have the truth

Something in man cries out to be heard, to be recognized, to be known and to be loved. What else can this be, if not the soul? What else can be the source of this longing? What else, this demand for meaning? Yes, ‘soul’ is too imprecise, has no shape, even asks itself constantly ‘What am I? Am I spirit, or life force, or blood? What am I?’ Perhaps ‘heart’ is better, because though the soul is shapeless, invisible, we can see the heart, or at least the organ that seems to be where it is tabernacled. Whatever else it is, this something in man wears the face of desire, but until the Desired reveals itself, it knows not why it is.

The Voice is heard first, but it is not seen. It calls incessantly. It commands obedience, while holding out promises. ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing…’ (Genesis 12:1-2). To obey brings not blessings but calamity, not ease but hardship, not safety but danger. Man hears the Voice and all at once the something in him that cries out to be heard, recognized, known and loved, senses that what it seeks is somehow enfolded in the Voice.
He obeys.

The Sign is seen first, and again the Voice is heard. The Voice and the Sign are one. There was the Bush blazing, but it was not being burned up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight’ (Exodus 3:2-3). Something in man wears the face of desire and now begins to understand that ‘face desires to look upon Face.’ He asks, ‘Show me your glory, I beg you’ (Exodus 33:18). The Voice says, ‘not yet,’ but relents. ‘I will let all my splendor pass in front of you, and I will pronounce before you the name…’ and then, ‘You cannot see my face, for man cannot see me and live’ (Exodus 33:19-20).

The Voice again relents. Something in man cries out, and draws compassion to itself, and the Voice in yielding reveals more than it intended. ‘Here is a place beside me. You must stand on the rock, and when my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with my hand as I pass by. Then I will take my hand away and you shall see the back of me; but my face is not to be seen’ (Exodus 33:21-23). The Sign is alive, not only does it not consume what it burns, but as it burns it feeds. ‘He laid no hand on these notables… They ate and they drank’ (Exodus 24:11).

The Voice and the Sign are heard and seen by many in diverse places and times, calling, commanding, promising, protecting, saving and delivering, but something in man is still not satisfied with hearing and seeing. The face of desire will not let itself be unfulfilled, for ‘face desires to look upon Face.’ Until that moment, something in man still fears, it all could be just a beautiful dream. It cries, ‘Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down—at your Presence the mountains would melt, as fire sets brushwood alight, as fire causes water to boil—to make known your name to your enemies, and make the nations tremble at your Presence, working unexpected miracles such as no one has ever heard of before. No ear has heard, no eye has seen, any god but you act like this…’ (Isaiah 64:1-3).

Now the Sign is seen alone. ‘It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel’ (Isaiah 7:14). Then Voice and Sign and Son appear together. ‘No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, You are my Son, the Beloved, my favor rests on you’ (Mark 1:10-11). Something in man cries out to be heard, to be recognized, to be known and to be loved. Something in man wears the face of desire and finally knows that ‘Face desires to look upon face.’

That which is in us crying out, no longer to guess, no longer to doubt, no longer to only believe or hope, runs after the one it has long desired, ‘Rabbi, where do you live?’ and hears, ‘Come and see,’ already so sure. ‘We have found the Messiah’ (John 1:38-39, 41). To this something in man wearing the face of desire, the Desired reveals himself, knowing why he is. ‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father…’ (John 14:9), and ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you know me, you know the Father too. From this moment you know him and have seen him’ (John 14:6-7).

We don’t need, we don’t want, mere theories, thoughts, formulas, dissertations, dry words which satisfy no thirsty soul, no hungry heart. ‘Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again; but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again’ (John 4:13-14). ‘Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man might eat it and not die’ (John 6:49-50). We want the living One, now that He has arrived, in whom we were hidden when the splendor passed by. ‘Show us the light of your face, turned toward us!’ (Psalm 4:6)

Brothers, we are the most fortunate of men, for that which cries out in us has been answered, not by fellow creatures lulling us to a wishful peace, quieting our cry with soothing untruthful words. That which cries out in us has been met not by mere words, but by the Word Himself, appearing in human form, in whose Image we are made, who was enfolded in the Voice, who burning did not consume in the Sign, and who in the Son showed us the Face that longed to look upon our faces, who loved us before we loved Him, whose desire for us begat our desire for Him.

Brothers, we don’t have the truth. The Truth has us.

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