A few years ago I was sitting in a church history class at SAU listening to the professor when he said something crazy cool. At the moment, I didn't realize how cool it was. In fact, it wasn't until a few weeks ago that it finally hit me. As the lecture progressed the professor shared a personal experience with us. During his years as a historian he had performed a detailed study of an Adventist pioneer by the name of EJ Waggoner. But this was no ordinary study. Our professor had literally poured through the life of Waggoner. He read everything and anything that had to do with him from personal letters to sermon manuscripts, articles, and books. He read what others had to say about him and about the experiences that his contemporaries had with him. In short, my professor skipped nothing that was even remotely related to Waggoner. He poured through his life with as much precision as humanly possible. Waggoner was his study.
And then came the crazy cool line. "I have spent so much time studying Waggoner that I feel as though I know him personally."
Only, at the moment I didn't think anything of it. It wasn't until a few weeks ago as I pondered my relationship with God that it finally hit me. My professor may have known everything there was to know about Waggoner - his beliefs, his activities, his hobbies, his imperfections, his family, friends, and legacy but there was one thing that was undeniable: Although my professor felt as though he personally knew Waggoner the fact remained that he did not. He had never sat down with him. He had never heard his voice. He had never laughed with him while sharing a dinner or travelling on a buggy. He had never experienced life with the living and breathing Waggoner. At best, all my professor could say was that he knew more about Waggoner than anyone else. But he didn't actually know Waggoner. Waggoner lived and died long before my professor and with his body resting in the grave the best my professor could do was know about him and try, as best as possible, to identify himself with the legacy and memory of this man. But try as he may, he could never actually know him.
What this means is that a person cannot simply be known based on details, data, and facts. A person can only be known when life is shared. That is truly the only way.
But here comes the hard part. How many of us, like my professor, know so much about God that we "feel" as though we know him but we really don't? How many of us have honestly fooled ourselves into thinking we truly know him when in reality all we have are details, data, and facts. We have never done life with him.
So, do you truly know God? Or do you know so much about him that you have convinced yourself that you know him? Are you settling for the shallow waters of information while avoiding the ocean of God's presence?
Let me put this in a different way. I often hear Christians talk about how they want something deeper but what if Jesus is the one looking for something deeper? Could we be demanding the very thing we refuse to give?
What if our Christianity is fake? What if our Christianity is the product of information without experience? Is it possible that we have constructed a graven image of God using ideas instead of stones? A God who we can keep happy so long as we say the right things at the right times and pray the right prayers and sing the right songs and shout the right words and quote the right verses?
I don't know about you, but that sounds kind of lame to me. Something tells me Jesus is longing for something deeper not just us. In the next post I'll begin to explore what that looks like though the life of a man Jesus spoke with. Stay tuned.