“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.” --C.S Lewis, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
Sometimes, in order to understand something, you need to be looking at it from the inside out. Faith is like that. I can talk to you about Jesus and how I know Him, but unless you know Him, too--it won’t really mean that much to you. You’ll probably assume I mean that I know of Him in an intellectual kind of way. Sort of like me telling you that I know Abraham Lincoln because I studied the American Civil War and read a biography or two. That’s nice. He seems like he was a good guy. Or, like when someone says that they love a celebrity. They might love the idea of him, but they don’t love him--because they don’t know him. They’ve just created an image in their mind to admire and attributed worth to it. To know someone, to truly understand them, is to know them from the inside out. Unfortunately--due to a lack of omnipotence--we can never fully know another human being. We might get close to them but we can only know them to the extent that they are open to being known. We can only know things about them. We can only know what they show. I think this is why we love books because we get the chance to glimpse inside someone else’s mind and feel what they feel; even if they are only fictional.
But, mystery of mysteries, there is the opportunity of being fully known ourselves. Even parents scratch their heads and wonder what is going on inside that kid of theirs. That child who came from their own bodies, who was raised in their home, whose experience has largely been shared--is still enigmatic. So, in order to be truly known, there is only one choice. There is only One other who shares all your experience and who knows the thoughts and emotions that duke it out for dominance in your mind. There is only One who looks at everything and sees you from the inside out.
He’s scary, though, if you really think about it; scary like a tornado is scary. Dangerous. Big. Too powerful for comfort. Out of our control and fully capable of ending everything. In the face of a tornado, all we can do is crawl into a hole in the ground and hope it doesn’t pass too close by. In the face of God? There is no hole deep enough.
If you attempt to grasp the size of the known universe and your mind blows a circuit because it can’t comprehend something that big and then you read that the universe is only a handbreadth to God; well, effectively, your opinion means bo diddly compared to what the Big Guy says. You may not like the fact that a tornado can uproot your house and obliterate it from existence, but your feelings on the matter have no effect upon the reality of the weather situation. If a tornado can make you feel small and powerless, imagine--if you can bear to--the power of the One who’s name is I AM. He doesn’t need another name. He just is. He speaks and things burst into being. He is light. He is both wave and particle. He is truth because what He says is. He is emotion and intelligence. Math and physics. Art and beauty. Joy and anger. He is. And we were made in His image. But we don’t last like He lasts. We exist for a page of history--if we manage to make a real big splash--but most of us only make it in as a footnote.
We want so desperately to matter, though. I know I do. I want my life to have the permanence of purpose; of a mission accomplished. I want to matter to the One who outlasts everyone. And, the mind-blowing thing is, I do. He invites each one of us to be on His side. He invites us to meet Him and never be the same again. And, when we meet Him, we realize that we are fully known. That we always have been. Paul, (before he was renamed Paul, but while he was still the Church persecuting Saul) met Jesus while he was traveling to Damascus and was asked why he insisted on going against the grain. Why was he fighting God? “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14).
Why are you fighting my intended purpose for you?
Have you ever tried to use the wrong tool to accomplish a job? Used a butter knife instead of a screw driver? Tried to haul something big with a sedan instead of truck? Something is going to get damaged in the process. It is hard for you. I think Jesus was speaking with compassion even though His first question to Saul was, “Why are you persecuting me?”
Saul believed he was doing the right thing, but in actuality he had set himself up against the One who spoke the Universe into being. It isn’t hard to imagine that battle being exhausting to the point of painful. It isn’t hard to imagine because I’ve done it myself--not hunting down Christians and throwing them in prison exactly--but I’ve certainly made a lot of mistakes and injured people all the while thinking I was doing the right thing. We just wear ourselves out on the wrong purposes; fighting the wrong battles. We use machetes to spread butter and wind up with cut hands, destroyed bread and wasted butter. We waste our purpose because we think we know better than God even though we barely know who we are.
But Jesus knew Paul all along. He knew him while he was still the flinty Pharisee named Saul who had made it his life’s mission to squash out the followers of Jesus. He knew the what and the why. He knew Saul as he was but then He spoke a new identity over him; a new purpose. A mission to be accomplished. When Saul beheld Jesus he was never the same. He knew who he was in relation to God and that changed everything about him from the inside out. He was fully known and he was fully transformed. God is the measuring line. God is the permanent standard by which we--the impermanent image bearers--circle around like electrons and gain purpose and definition. We are who He says we are; even before we know it ourselves.