Most Christians know about the intercessory prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane recorded in John 17. In it Jesus says,
[T]his is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
I have often thought about what knowing God means. Like some others, I also say that I have a certain knowledge about the existence of God — perhaps more specifically the love he has for his children (all of them).
The more I read, study and pray, the more I feel that whatever I can say on the subject pales in comparison with the experiences I have of God’s love. I love the Holy Scriptures, because they teach me to understand better the boundless nature of Father’s love.
And after all is said and done, I believe I only know just a little bit of what there is to know of our Father and his love. His gospel message has saved me — in more literal ways than you could ever imagine possible — and continues giving me a constant feeling of peace and happiness as life goes on.
However, I don’t want you to misunderstand me. Life is not easy for me, either. It’s just that when the sun seems to be setting and the night gathering over me, I know from sure experience that the sun also rises. That gives me more strength to wait for the morning.
There have also been times, when Father has needed the love of others to prop me up, too. Times, when I have been reluctant to feel his love; times when I have turned away, perhaps proud and angry.
That has brought me to think, that perhaps the most Godlike characteristic given to mortals — whom he created in his own image, after all — is the capacity to love.
Love, however, is a word most misused. How many times have we said/heard the words, “well, if you loved, me, X” (or something to that effect)? “If you loved me, it wouldn’t matter to you if I [insert your favorite sin that your loved one is trying to talk you out of].”
Well, the love of God means that there is nothing we can do to diminish it. Otherwise, we are free to choose. He is not going to force us to feel his love.
But the day will come, when this mortal life is over. How certain am I, that I will be conscious of something after the medics have pronounced me DOA? I could shift the comma here or there, but it will always be just that one little bit short of a full round 100%. Just enough that I need to take whatever steps I take mostly by faith. It is true that certain experiences are powerful, but how certain can I be, that they don’t erode like the granite cliffs that also look so sound?
(If you thought you were getting a short and simple answer, now’s the time to reconsider that notion…)
We have this thing called empirical science, that means, to put it simply, that for something to be called scientifically proven, it must be repeatable in a test in a controlled environment, in a laboratory.
The laboratory that we call mortality has one limitation from that point of view. We can not control the environment much. I have often thought how different it would be for us, if we could take even one random day from our lives and relive it.
There are mistakes that I wish I hadn’t made. At the same time, I feel that I know some things because of what I have gone through as a result of such mistakes. Would I choose not to make those mistakes, if I could “repeat” the experiment? I know that the experiences have been difficult enough to make me want to avoid certain mistakes if I can help it, but let’s say that with the experience came the knowledge; I am glad, actually, that I don’t have that option as of now.
I am coming back to the knowledge thing here. What is knowledge? When my head hits the pavement, it sure feels hard, but I also know that given enough time it will erode. In that respect, we have to think of eternity as something we can only vaguely begin to grasp.
Likewise, I guess I will have to consider God something that I can only vaguely begin to understand little “pieces” of. The whole is something much too big for my limited mind to contain. I’m pretty sure that some more esoteric ideas of God came to people because of this fact.
Those “pieces” are like little bursts of light that I experience, when I feel I finally understand something; when an idea becomes clear. They increase my understanding, but it would be a gross exaggeration to say I have the final picture. But I can keep experiencing those bursts, feel the feelings of fulfillment that come with them.
My thought is, that it is only in the future, after I have experienced mortality in its full — in other words, “passed on” to use the common euphemism — that I will be able to say that I am 100% certain of anything. As for now, I would quote Paul, who says,
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1. Cor 13:12)
This is the kind of glass we can step right through. If we do, we will leave behind some, who will point fingers of scorn. Pay no attention.