My first teacher was this physical world. I can’t remember when I first became curious about the world around me. Before I could read I observed the movement of life around me, along with those things that didn’t move and weren’t alive. Some of my earliest memories are of hiding from my drunken brutal dad while mom was at work. They divorced when I was three. I can still smell the evergreen bushes and see the insects I observed as I hid in the shrubs in front of our house, or the feel of the cloth on the underside of the guest room bed as I hid in the darkness. Or the way the dust beneath the bed moved as I blew it across the floor in the dim light of the hallway.
A few years later when I learned to read I read, among other things, science, history, and science fiction. I devoured the books, and my most exciting time of the month was when a new couple of books would come from the book club. Mom spent her hard earned money to keep books in my hands. She bought a set of encyclopedias on credit, and when I had finished my monthly books I read those books that explored everything. And… all of this taught me about God. Some people I have known seem repulsed by God, but for me His existence was gravity… pulling me… always pulling me. I knew little to nothing about religion, but this first teacher taught me about God. The bigness of this world taught me that there was so much I didn’t know, and even more that I didn’t know about Him. And frankly I thrilled at my ignorance, because it meant I had a life of exploration before me. My first teacher still teaches me that truth, perhaps now more than ever.
My second teacher was myself, but probably not in the way you think. Self-awareness, common to all of us, taught me that I was more than the sum of my physical parts. This mind, this being, seemed so foreign to the physical world around me and was, at least to me, a different substance than what I could see and touch. For me there seemed to be two forms of life, physical life and the mind. Physical life seems much easier to grasp than this ethereal existence of the mind. Yet they both exist, both paradoxically inside and dependent upon the other. Life… it is about life.
I am here now in the hospital painfully observing my Father-in-law’s struggle with a major heart attack. And… it is not death I see so much as life. Death is the stranger, life is the native force of all we know. This truth is probably the root of my greatest resistance to the notion that there is no God. All my atheist friends must do is look at their own equations to see what I mean. It is life that has pushed itself against all odds, and I mean all odds, to explode with such force in this existence. It is in our DNA for life to survive… to fight against all resistance. Life is normal… death is not. Death is an end-state not a conscious force. And this mind, even our collective mind, pushes against death. We fight it. Our bodies fight it. And when we willingly give up life it is considered the greatest sacrifice.
God loves life! He is first, before all else, alive. This is a major truth that my first two teachers taught me… It is a fact that is so visible around and within us. We are bathed in it; all we must do is open our eyes.
There is a Mind behind these two life forms. But that singular Mind is the Creator not the created. When He pours Himself into a created form that physical form isn’t Him, but it is where we meet Him. This is how I tell the difference between the false and the true. Most religion is man meeting the mind of man. But there are places where and times when man meets the limitless transcendent God. And in this meeting our minds shiver in the awareness of our smallness and His beyondness. Yet… He has come to us... So that we may know Him. And in the glaring awareness of my ignorance it is this fact that strengthens me: He has come to me… He has, by His own choice, come to us. And this… this place of revelation, this time of reaching for Him, this condescension of The Life has been my third teacher.
This is something that so many people misunderstand about Jesus, but it is the greatest example of what I mean. Jesus is a man… a human. But His humanity is a unique package designed by the Creator to be a place where we meet the eternal Mind. In all created life forms we learn about God, but in these exceptional forms, such as Jesus who is the highest form, we meet God. In Jesus we meet the mind of God, the ultimate Force of Life,” the fullness of the Godhead bodily”. And The Life resisted and defeated death. And this is as natural as a blade of grass. Death is our enemy, Life is the victory.
“O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”