I don’t even know how to start this blog. I feel like I have SO MANY thoughts from the last few weeks, I can’t even begin to string them into coherent sentences (which I could use as an excuse for my only blogging once a month, instead of the promised once a week…but that’s just a lame excuse). So I’ll just jump right in and talk about something that I think is rather essential in understanding me, and how God speaks to me.
I have a lot of what have come to be known as “revelations.”
Last year, the other missionaries would all sort of laugh when we’d talk about something in formation and I would start off, “So, today, I had a revelation…” It would usually be something I was really excited about, an instance where God spoke to me very clearly or powerfully, and I would usually cry at some point during the explanation. It became a typical “Danielle” thing.
Now, I don’t claim to have any new insights—I haven’t come to know anything that tons of people before me haven’t already known about our faith, or a relationship with God. My revelations—or, rather, God’s revelations to me—mostly consist of understanding the simplest things in new ways, or with a new intensity. It’s like the difference between looking at a blueprint of something and then actually experiencing the building. The drawing of a building and the building in completed form may be, for all intents and purposes, the “same thing;” but there’s quite a big difference between the pencil lines on a piece of paper which make up the idea and the wood beams, stone, plaster, insulation, electric wiring, tile flooring, water pipes and so forth that make the real thing. Looking at a picture of the Dom in Cologne is one thing; it’s nice, you can appreciate it for how beautiful it is, you can read some interesting facts about it and wonder at how long it took to make and whatnot. You can even appreciate other people telling you about their experiences inside. But the whole thing comes crashing into your reality in a completely different way when you’re there—walking across floors that people have been walking across for centuries, climbing the hundreds of stairs to the bell tower that once-upon-a-time ago, someone had to climb for real (and not for a fun tourist attraction). You no longer only have the “idea” of being able to go in—something that’s rather nebulous and intangible—but you have the concrete, personal experience of actually going into the building. Looking at it. Touching it. Smelling it. Kneeling in front of the Lord in the Eucharistic chapel. Hearing the cacophony of shuffling feet and whispers of awe in all sorts of different languages and the bells going off and hundreds of camera shutters snapping. Sweating your way up the bell tower stairs.
You have, in a word: REALITY.
And, after all, when you really think about it, that is what the thing was designed for in the first place! Imagine if we always stopped with the blueprints! What would our world be like with only ideas?
The fact of the matter is we are a flesh and blood people—a laughing and crying, an eating and drinking, a sight and sound and touch and taste and hearing folk. We were made to experience things, with our whole selves, not just to think about them.
That is the Incarnation—God becoming flesh, taking on our reality, becoming tangible. In the person of Jesus, God is no longer just an “idea” or a conceptualization, but flesh and blood. People touched Him, spoke with Him, ate meals with Him. He is a “God who is with us.” And that challenges us to engage with our whole selves in return. Christian life is about KNOWING GOD: “this is eternal life, that [we] should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). Jesus—God Incarnate—came so that we would live in the reality that is his life. It is not enough to know things about Him; Jesus made that clear in everything He said to the Scribes and Pharisees. They knew tons about God, but were unable to recognize Him when He was in their midst (“Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes [...] but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.” Luke 11:42). The people who did know Jesus were the people who ripped open a roof to be near Him, who clamored through a great crowd of people just to touch the tassel on His cloak, who bathed His feet with tears and wiped them with their hair, who yelled at Him from the side of the road to get His attention, who climbed up trees just to catch a glimpse of Him.
And so, these “revelation” moments are much more than me finally understanding things I’ve always known (the beauty of the Mass, the truth of Scripture, the mystery of God becoming flesh, the reality of evil in the world…). I am climbing the tree, running along the road, obsessively following Him from place to place—just to see, to feel…to know.
I am becoming a disciple.
“We shall never have finished plumbing the mystery of the personality of Jesus. We shall never have finished listening to Him as Master, imitating Him as an example, loving Him as Savior. We shall never have finished discovering His relevance, His importance for all the great questions of our times; we shall never have finished sensing the birth in us, as a unique spiritual experience, of the desire, the torment, the hope to be able finally to see Him, to meet Him, to understand and taste to the point of supreme happiness that He is our new and true life and our salvation…we must live in the hope of meeting Jesus as we meet a traveling pilgrim on the way, a friend we know, a brother of our own blood, a Master of our own tongue, a liberator who can accomplish everything, a Savior.” (Pope Paul VI)