Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ontological Illusion

In God I cease to be, and yet I am. It is kind of confusing. That is why I am so hesitant to write about my prayer life. Words seem so sloppy and imprecise. So are ideas. In prayer we dwell in the space between thoughts. Doctrines cannot contain the God of prayer anymore than colanders can hold water. 

In prayer we live in the expanse behind the material world. Jesus called it the Kingdom of God. It is not “up there” in heaven, nor “down here” on earth. It is not “out there” or “in here.” Yet it is both up and down, here and there. It is breaking in and yet to come. See what I mean? Words are sloppy.

I use the word God to describe the presence behind the creation because it is the best word I know. But the word “God” has been so distorted by theists and atheists that it would be equally true to say “not God,” by which I mean not the idols we mistake for God.

God is “not me” and “not the world.” Rudolf Otto called God “the wholly other.” Theologians speak of the transcendence of God. I guess that term will work, as long as transcendence is understood to include immanence.

God is present during prayer. No argument can convince me otherwise. I am more certain of the reality of God than I am of my own reality – much more certain. In prayer one perceives a divine depth to existence that is normally in the background of our awareness. But in prayer, we notice it because we are paying attention.

It is like the optical illusion of the vase and the faces, or the hag and the beauty. It is all how you look at things. We tend to look at things the way we have been conditioned. But when we are alone with God, then God nudges us into a new way of seeing – to see the kingdom of God that is hiding in plain sight.

In prayer the vastness of eternity is made known. It is so real that everything else seems like a mist in comparison. It is more real than my individual personality or even the material world.

In the presence of God my personal identity is perceived as little more than a fleshly fiction whose main purpose is to keep me from God. It is where Adam and Eve ran to hide from God, and we have been hiding ever since.

But in prayer we can come out of hiding, and God comes out of hiding. “Truly you are a God who hides himself,” the prophet Isaiah said. But he is also a God who reveals himself. He hides in plain sight. He who has eyes to see, let him see.

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