I remember a number of years ago when we were still living in the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania. Sue (my wife) had an appointment down in Uniontown, at the bottom of the mountain. I drove her to town, dropped her off and then went for a drive. After running a couple of errands, I thought I would find somewhere to relax and spend some time in much needed prayer and meditation. Having decided this, I drove onto the grounds of a monastery and retreat center that is located in town.
Before this, I had never explored those grounds. They are truly beautiful. This land had once been the estate of one of the local coal barons who prospered in the area decades ago. There is a stately, almost majestic quality to the landscape. Ancient trees overhang neatly trimmed lawns and dot the ridges of rolling hillocks. Scattered among these lovely old trees are a number of shrines and statues of various saints. There are also park benches placed at various spots, inviting you to stop and meditate. I took advantage of one such spot.
By now it was just about twilight—my favorite time of the day. It was cool, almost chilly. I wished I had brought a sweater, yet… I was enjoying the delightful feel of the cool, moist evening air on my skin. Delicious. A perfect spot and a perfect time for reflection and meditation. As I sat—musing, meditating, pondering, praying—I was suddenly very much aware of the presence of God. He was there. Simply. Vitally. Powerfully. Truly.
I enjoyed a sense of luxuriating in His presence. Do you know what I mean? There are times when He, the Lord Himself, makes Himself dramatically manifest to you. You don’t just feel His presence, you are awash in it. You bathe in it. You feel like Ezekiel beside the river. You begin by getting your feet wet… then your body… then you are swimming in the glory. That is the way this time was. No thunder or earthquakes. No fire or lightning. But in the stillness of that moment I touched eternity and I knew that Yahweh, the Creator, the Lord, the Almighty God was genuinely present. At such a time all you can do is to just relax and enjoy the marvelous instance.
For just a few second, just a flash of time, I was aware of His true existence in an amazingly even more intense manner. This thought roared into my mind: God, men think you are not real. That you are somehow nebulous and uncertain. But the fact is You are too real for our minds to comprehend. You are the most real thing there is. You are more real than I am. More real than these stones and trees. More real than the earth beneath my feet. Lord, I am overcome by Your true reality. Your existence is too much for me! YOU are too much for me!
It was only a brief moment. But what a true epiphany—a revelation of the Being of the Father.
I have pondered much about that moment.
It has caused me to reflect on things I have read and studied. I had a new appreciation for Francis Schaeffer entitling one of his books The God Who Is There. Great title! I understood the old philosophers speaking of the Deity as the “ground of existence.” Being itself is truly rooted in Him. I thought of Aquinas applying Aristotle’s concept of the Unmoved Mover to the very personal Lord of the Scriptures. Good job, Tom! I now saw with fresh eyes and a new vision that God is truly, vibrantly, and necessarily real. He is the most real Being there is, or can be. He—the living and true God, the Savior and Lord, the Father and Lover of my soul—He Himself is the essence of existence, Being Itself, the Uncaused Reason for all reality.
I just said that He is the most real Being there is. Dwell on that thought for a minute. Nothing is more real, more substantial, has greater essential being than He does.
This causes me to think of the writings of C. S. Lewis. There is a place where Lewis speaks of the reality of God, and of Jesus, as being the most solid, real, substantial existence there is. This notion actually runs counter to most of our thinking. We tend to think of what is spiritual as being cloudy, airy and less real than material existence. If we take careful stock of our concept of “spirit,” and consequently of God (who is Spirit), then we would admit that we think God’s existence is somehow less real than our existence. We see Him as sitting on clouds, dwelling in air, floating on a buoyant throne in a heaven that must have balloons for a foundation. Most of us probably serve a Lawrence Welkish God—all bubbles (and archaic music).
But the opposite is actually the case. The truth is that God, and heaven, and spirit, are more substantial, more real than we are. Lewis asserts that the reason Christ could walk through a wall, for instance, was not that He was less substantial than the wall. No. The fact is, He is more substantial (more solid, if you will) than the wall. Just as we can walk through air, or even through water, because we are more solid than air or water—so Christ could walk through a “solid” wall because he was heavier and more solid than the wall.
Think this is too farfetched? Well, consider a few fascinating facts.
I think modern physics actually lends credence to this view. The more we come to understand the mysterious nature of the subatomic world, the more we realize how shadowy and unsubstantial reality is. Physicists debated for some time whether light is a particle or wave, because it behaves like both. Maybe it is both; maybe it’s neither. But that is only the beginning of the paradoxes. As scientists continue to explore this bizarre world, they have found that the basic constituents of matter itself seem pretty nonsubstantial. When we go down, way down, below the level of protons and neutrons, to the level of leptons and quarks and such, what do we find? We find that these things, the basic building “blocks” of matter are more like charges rather than charged “particles.” They seem to be bits of energy, wave patterns, rather than blobs of matter. In fact, the most basic stuff of the physical seem less and less to be physical at all. The root of material existence is truly rather nonmaterial!
Should this surprise us? Not really. Remember, we are repeatedly told that our human existence is “but a vapor” and life here is like “smoke.” Perhaps these verses not only apply to the brevity of life, but to the nonsubstantial reality of our existence itself.
I also am intrigued by the fact that one of the words that is translated from Hebrew as “glory” in English literally means a weight, a heaviness, or a burden. On the surface, this has reference to the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, that heavy object which was the visible image of the invisible glory of God. They carried the weight of God’s glory, very literally. However, I wonder if there is also a deeper meaning. God and His glory are often tied very closely in thought. Perhaps the glory/weight of God refers to the fact that He truly is the most substantial, most real, most “solid” Being in all of existence.
So the next time you go to pray or worship, you may want to stop and appreciate anew the wonderful being and awesome existence of our God. He is truly the Most Real, as well as the Most High, God.