- Jim Lovelady
Day 29: A Shared Life With God
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
I am the truth.--John 14:6
Opposite Day is masterful at deconstructing my will to live. My kids embody the post-modern decline into meaninglessness and anarchy when they play one of the most annoying games imaginable.
Ephram: “Today is Opposite Day.”
Talitha: “No it’s not.”
Ephram: “That means it is.”
Lucia: “That means it isn’t.”
Me: “You three are being ridiculous. Your semantic tampering with absolute truth is plunging this entire family into an epistemological crisis!”
Kids: ”Well dad, since it’s Opposite Day, that means whatever you just said isn’t true.”
Me: “Yes it is!”
Kids: “That means it’s not. Opposite Day!”
I hate that game.
We all believe in some kind of absolute truth. We couldn't function without it; life would be Opposite Day. Opposite Day is how we know that everything that we think and say and do is based on some version of truth. We can’t make any kind of meaningful statements about reality without presupposing some sort of absolute, foundational truth. The problem is we don’t always agree about what that absolute truth is. Everyone has their own version.
Typically, in the normal American version of Christianity, truth is a certain set of doctrinal facts about the Bible and Jesus that you either affirm or deny. But when Jesus says that he is "the way the truth and the life" he’s not saying that he is a certain set of facts to be affirmed.
When Jesus says “I am the truth“ he’s inviting us into his life. He’s not inviting us to merely know about him. He’s inviting us to share life with him, to be like him, to act like him. This is a mysterious thing that takes time to understand and it comes in brief glimpses more often than I would like. My feelings about walking with Jesus are more difficult to articulate than the doctrinal things I believe or deny about Jesus. Theology is easy to talk about. Shared life with the divine is not so easy to talk about.
Your faith must rest on a person, not on facts about that person.
I admit, this is a confusing statement when you think about it. But Jonathan Edwards has helped me here. In his sermon"A Divine and Supernatural Light" he talks about the difference between having the knowledge that honey is sweet and having the experience or sensation that honey is sweet. This helps me as I think about the difference between knowing about Jesus--having all of my theological ducks in a row--and actually having an experience of life with Jesus.
So how do you put yourself into a place where you can taste and see that the Lord is good and not just sit on the outside of that transcendent experience holding your doctrinal affirmations and denials as a meager consolation?
It comes in a persistent prayer that says “I am not satisfied with merely knowing about you. That’s why I’m talking to you right now. And it often feels like I’m talking to the darkness so give me an experience of the sweetness of your grace either through the stories that I hear about you or the people that I rub shoulders with who reflect your love, or the truths that I read about you in scripture or the food that I eat or the sounds I hear. Use all of these things to guide me into the joy of your presence. I want to know you and share life with you, not just know about you. I want to love you and be found in Love. It is fellowship with you, Truth, that will set me free.”
But what do you do when that prayer doesn't "work"?
I have experienced seasons of my life where it felt like it was spiritual opposite day, where I didn't really know what to believe anymore, when the "help my unbelief" prayers felt pointless. I didn't really have any confidence in what I had known. I was full of doubts, especially because the facts that I had known didn't give me the comfort that they used to. It is here that the Spirit would give me wonderful gifts like 1 John 3:20, "For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and he knows everything."
It was as if God was saying, "I know you don't believe. I know you are confused. That doesn't matter right now. I am greater than those things."
And what that produced in me was the same feeling you have when you are overwhelmed by something beautiful. Dumbstruck and joyful. My only response in those moments was, "I don't know what I think about you but...I find you to be absolutely beautiful!"
That is the sweetness of grace.
Simon and Garfunkel get that truth is relational. It's not something we can necessarily point to because as soon as we identify it our language and description are immediately insufficient. So we squint our eyes to see only dimly. We struggle with our words. We get a poetic hint of a sensation. A lightning bolt flashes and lights up the sky long enough to reveal something gloriously beautiful...and then it’s gone again. We believe.
The only truth we can know is a person. His name is Love.
I confess my belief. Help my unbelief. Guide me. Entice me with your beauty. Let all that I have come to know about you lead me into the sweet joy of a shared life with you and in my doubts remind me: The only truth I know is you. Amen.