Thursday, September 18, 2014

Believing is Seeing

Sunrise at Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Alan Cash)

The adage tells us, “Seeing is believing.” This particularly applies to our physical world, in which we make observations and draw conclusions based on what we’ve seen. Prior to the initiative and inventiveness of Orville and Wilbur Wright, mankind suspected it might be possible to fly but as every effort failed, it seemed a hope beyond belief. After the Wright brothers demonstrated human beings could in fact travel aloft, albeit for only a short distance at first, others saw, believed and pressed forward to discover what it would require to travel by air.

Of course, some still feel a disconnect between sight and belief. They’ve seen planes in flight, perhaps even close-up at an airport, but refuse to board a jet for fear it will crash. Even though many more people die annually in car crashes, while plane accidents are relatively rare, they’d sooner walk a tightrope than get on a plane. Seeing doesn’t always correlate to believing.

There are times when the antithesis of the adage is also true. A child stands at poolside, looking simultaneously at the water and open arms of a parent who urges, “Jump!” The little girl gazes around, weighing her options, probably thinking, “Daddy, you’re not raising some fool. That water’s deep, and I’m little…. I’m not going to jump.”

Yet after persistent parental pleadings, the toddler casts childlike sense to the wind and, believing in daddy – even though the water still seems threatening – leaps and is captured by her parent’s waiting hands. Believing and trusting in the parent, the girl finally “sees” her father protecting her from the watery depths.

Decades ago C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite writers, and a very astute thinker, made this observation; “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Lewis – a former atheist – found that believing is seeing.

From a spiritual perspective, this is the conundrum. We’re asked to believe – and trust – in a God we can’t see. From a scientific, empirical sense it’s true – we can’t prove the existence of God. At the same time, neither can you prove scientifically or empirically that God doesn’t exist. The spiritual is not confined or controlled by physical laws. So you can either conclude, “I can’t see God, therefore He (or she, or it) does not exist,” or you can decide even though you can’t see God in physical, quantifiable form, you’ll believe in Him just the same.

Think about it this way: Do you believe in love? Can you prove the existence of love in a scientific way? No, you can’t. You can observe its effects, but you can’t categorically “prove” love – after all, people do “fall out of love,” don’t they? Maybe they weren’t “in love” to begin with; they just liked what they got out of a relationship and when they tired of it or it stopped meeting their needs, decided it wasn’t love after all so it was okay to bail out of it.

In the same way, while God can’t be observed in a test tube, Petri dish, microscope or telescope, we can observe His effects: Compassion shown to people victimized by disease, disaster or tragedy. People who give generously to people, as well as causes, that can offer them absolutely no personal benefit, other than the joy and satisfaction of knowing people have been helped and causes advanced because of their kindness. Individuals giving up lucrative, comfortable careers and lifestyles to immerse themselves in alien cultures with strange languages and unfamiliar customs to assist the less fortunate in the name of Christ.

We all have an inner sense of right and wrong. We admire acts of selflessness and humility. We applaud the “good Samaritans,” so-called because of a biblical parable, who go to great lengths to come to the aid of those in distress. No, we don’t have to believe in God to abide by some moral code, but where do those values come from in the first place?

Years ago I took a step of faith, committing my life to Jesus even though I had no clue what that would mean. As it’s turned out, it has meant much, much more than I could ever have imagined. As I’ve been hoping to share through this blog over the past six years, similar to what Lewis wrote, I believe in Christ as I believe the sun has risen – because by Him, and through Him, I see everything else.

Or as Jesus said even more eloquently, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Free not to do anything I want, but free to progressively become everything He wants me to be.

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