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“Let there be light.” With those words God turned thought into reality. The Apostle
Paul writing to the Corinthians attributes the power of a mind grasping the knowledge of God in the Gospel of Jesus to the grace of God saying once again “Let there be light.”
1Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
When God sparks the realization of “who He is” the understanding ushers people into a brand new world. I have appreciated Carolyn Weber’s confession, a memoir of discovery and faith, Surprised by Oxford, because of the beautiful way she expresses her journey from Canada to Oxford, and her journey from unbelief into vibrant faith. In the text below she recalls a moment when the words out of her own mouth gave surprising form to the faith forming in her mind and heart. Her class was discussing Milton.
“I think Milton is trying to feel his way through the dark.” It just came out, as I had just done from the wardrobe. Obviously it, too, within me had been grappling for the surface. I tried not to look surprised. Professor Nuttham stared at me intently. “Go on,” he said. Linnea and Fred looked at each other, and then at me, nervously. Again Dr. Deveaux’s image came to mind. I realized that the answer swelling up in me came from a very real, very personal place. “He is going blind on one level. I can only imagine how particularly horrendous that would be, especially for a writer. But does he fear going blind, being blind, on another level even more so?” I heard myself saying, “Why, exactly, is he ‘justifying these ways of God to men’? For whom is he writing? God doesn’t need justification. He certainly doesn’t need us. God doesn’t need anything.”The room stayed quiet. “Yet, it doesn’t make us superfluous or unimportant, the fact that God doesn’t need us,” I rushed on. “Actually, quite the opposite. It’s because He loves us in spite of not needing us that makes His love so, well, awesome.” Dr. Nuttham raised his eyebrows; slang was not encouraged in tutorials. “In the original sense of the term,” I quickly clarified. He lowered his brows in acceptance. Inside me lights began to go on, an electrical surge; though out of habit, I checked the swell in my heart. “Yes, I see what you mean,” ventured Linnea. “I tend to confuse what I desire, what I think I need, with what I love or pretend to love. Even with the best intentions, everything, at some point, gets muddled. Can anyone love perfectly?”
“For man,” I replied, “the trees grow so close together! I know I can’t always tell the vines apart, especially in the dark. But there is no pretense in a love that is not based on need of the giver, that is not based on consumption of the other, but only on magnification.” Everyone stared at me with that initial Yeatsian silence. I surprised everyone, including me. Where had all of that come from? I paused, collected my nerve, and then threw caution to the wind and added, “I think Milton is trying to show us the difference between Eden and heaven. Like the rest of us, he’s trying to feel his own way along that continuum.” Everything in the room stayed very, very still. I willed the clock to chime, but it didn’t.
“Despair is the greatest sin,” Dr. Nuttham finally responded slowly. “It involves forgetting that God is there. Forgetting that He is good and that all He is and does extends from and works toward this perfect goodness. That doesn’t mean that He allows evil, or creates it, or perpetuates it. That’s our entwinement. Rather, He uses even our evil toward His good. We all need forms of remembering this first great love . . . writing, reading, creating, being.” He paused, looking surprised too. Then he added, “I see,” and smiled at his own inadvertent wording. He continued smiling softly as he rose to make tea. Linnea leaned in and whispered, “Whoa.” She put her fingers to her mouth and puffed, as though to sign that I had been smoking the funny stuff before class. I made a face back at her. But I had to admit, I did feel a little high.
Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber
“At some thoughts one stands perplexed, especially at the sight of men’s sin, and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvellously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.”
Brothers Karamazov, “Conversations and Exhortations of Father Zossima” by Fyodor Dostoevsky
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8
Humility is a choice. Its a choice made in response to God as revealed to us in the Gospel. When we see Jesus coming from the throne room of heaven to take up the cradle of Bethlehem we can seek grace for humility. When we see Jesus coming from the communion of the Father and Spirit in order to be the Son on the cross we must seek grace for humility. Such love constrains us! Humility is a choice made in response to the knowledge of God.