I am currently reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer as part of a small community group at the other church I visit sometimes, All Nations. It is a rather short book. Every chapter is 10 pages long. But I must say, every chapter is full of power. Though I could not attend last night’s meeting, I must say that I found reading chapter 4: Apprehending God, riveting and not just provoking but convicting. The verse he uses under the title of the chapter comes from Psalm 34:8, which says:
O taste and see.
The content of this chapter revolved around that idea of tasting and seeing God, in truthful transparency. Much of what I have read so far in this book has to do with the dichotomy which exists in each of us between intellectually knowing the truth and vitally knowing the truth. What I mean by vitally, is that a truth that is intellectually accepted will anchor behavior, thoughts, and dispositions as long as there is nothing to test that. A truth that is vital to our very own existence is a truth that can’t be violated no matter the cost or the price. Furthermore, this truth is not just intellectually understood, we stake our lives in it because there is an understanding that truth not only survives my unbelief, it exists outside my unbelief and transcends it.
It is like this: say there is a can of soda on the table and it is gold. And add to that, 3 or 4 people. All of these people will have an understanding of that can and its color. Their understanding will depend on the time of day since the can’s color will acquire the daylight’s tone, on their placement on the table in relation with the can, and on their experiences with this product. Each person will have a different story to tell though the company that made the can will make certain claims about the can and its contents. But here is the thing: the can exists outside each person’s interpretation. Furthermore, we can’t have an interpretation if the can did not exist outside of us. In fact, that we have an interpretation is directly related to the objective reality of the can. Otherwise, what are we interpreting? Intellectual assent of truth is much like that. We can disagree with the can, we can agree with the can, we can like the can, we can dislike the can, and even more, we can deny the can. We can do all of this because that can exists outside of us and our intellect.
But vitally knowing the truth goes further than an exercise in dialectic and discourse of our personal interpretation. A vital knowledge of the can surrenders our mind and soul to it. In other words the can somehow lives in us. In the process of embracing this can, we need to become like the can. Granted, I do not think anyone reading or not reading would like to become a can, as pretty as this can is. But we do live trying to become like people we love, admire, or look up to. There is a search, a deep search for a connection beyond the physical. In fact, our physical connections make us feel or may bring about a state of sublime bliss, but it does not last. Knowing God in a vital way means that He shapes us, sinners who constantly fail, in His image day in and day out because He wants to. Vitally knowing Him would mean that we are willing to believe in Him and His promises and/or continuously ask Him to help our unbelief. It means that though the going gets tough, we know that this too shall pass no matter how hard it may be. Vitally knowing God is a disciplined effort to train our minds to not betray us by nurturing our fear. And that is hard to do. Therein lies the difference between intellectually knowing and vitally knowing God.
This chapter kept me thinking and reminded me of my college years when I was part of a college christian fellowship. We were young, we were fearless, and many times we were very, very unwise. But we had a un-quenching thirst for the living God. This chapter reminded me of those years. I am grateful because God gave me those experiences and friendships. One of them is a pastor now and we still keep in touch. I am grateful because there were moments in which I saw God. Last week, the group prayed for me because I was in a rough spot and there was this certainty in my mind, in my gut, in my core, that God visited us, in that moment. It was like a snap of energy or a quick flash of a thought. I can’t completely explain it but it was significant enough for me. I struggle sometimes with the unbelief that He will deliver me but I have decided that like the centurion my prayer will be, I believe, help my unbelief.