Making Truth Real

When I was a freshman at university, I tried climbing up the side of my dormitory. (Don’t try it.) Halfway up, I slipped and fell several floors. On the journey down, I hit my head on a cement window sill, split open my forehead, and collected a concussion. I still have that scar.

My friends rushed me to the student health center. The doctor pried the laceration open with metal instruments, pulled out debris with tweezers, and began to stitch me up. When I cried, “Ouch!” he finally remembered to give me a local anesthetic.

A year later, I canoed a local river with friends. Once when we tipped, I stood up on the river bed and stepped on a piece of glass. Blood began to spurt out several inches with each heartbeat. A student nurse wrapped my foot and rushed me back to the student health center.

The same doctor was on duty. (What are the odds?) Before poking and prodding, he offered to numb the pain. Only then did he go ahead with the prying, prodding, and cleaning. He was surprisingly gentle, and kept asking me if “this” hurts. I still have that scar too.

Afterward, I mentioned that he had stitched up my head the year before, but—and how was I to say this?—on that first visit, he lacked this gentle touch.

He said he had recently sliced open his hand while cutting a bagel. The doctor on call had treated him like a medical student experimenting on a cadaver rather than a doctor caring for a living patient.

He concluded, “I always knew these procedures hurt, but I didn’t really know. That doctor’s insensitivity has changed the way I practice medicine.”

And then he showed me his scar.

Beliefs of the Heart

We all claim to know things that we don’t really know. We declare that God loves us, but then our feelings are easily hurt, or in flash we snap at our wives, despair of life, or fear our next annual review. God’s love seems like it’s on scratchy audio in a distant closet, while the circumstances of life seem like they are in HD quality, color video, on a large, flat screen TV.

To the Hebrew people of the Old Testament, understanding of truth meant more than an intellectual assent to an abstract idea. Truth was experienced as much as it was articulated; truth was an encounter as much as it was a proposition. To “know” meant a life-changing union, not just a fact-gathering Easter-egg hunt.

Real knowledge is not something one owns like a set of fine china, and spiritual insight is more than a mere assemblage of facts that we collect like baseball cards. Relational knowledge of God—true spiritual wisdom—is a living, breathing, personal power; a voice and a conscience; a movement in the heart; a new pair of eyes and a new way of thinking.

That’s why the Hebrew word “to know” also meant the intimate act of love in a marriage.

Intimate Theology

We want relief from the evil circumstances of life, but we live in a broken world and we’ll continue to experience flat tires, illness, fearful conditions, and death. God has something better; he wants us to know him so vividly that we have relief in our circumstances.

I write Beliefs of the Heart so we can know God; not just know about him; not merely to articulate an abstract, systematic theology; but to come to know Him.

I write Beliefs of the Heart so we can experience intimate theology, a deep knowing of God that permeates our hearts and suffuses our circumstances.

I write Beliefs of the Heart so that we can “comfort others with the comfort we’ve been given,” through all our scars, from our head to our hands to our feet.


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What do YOU think?

23 thoughts on “Making Truth Real

  1. Thanks for this, Sam.

    “We want relief from the evil circumstances of life…God has something better; he wants us to know him so vividly that we have relief in our circumstances.”

    This is truly the place I am forever seeking!

  2. There is a lot of noise out there clamoring for my attention. But I never miss reading your blog or your book 🙂 Thank you. You are a humble voice and feel like our friend. Thank you!

  3. Thanks Sam. The first paragraph of Making Truth Real is my story. I tripped at home, split my forehead open and self administered my care. 2 days later while at home, the room began to spin. Ok, I thought, now this is serious. Went to the closest hospital which is 8 minutes from me instead of the one I have used for the past 20 years in downtown Chicago. Fortunately it was Vertigo and nothing else.
    When I think God is not necessarily working in my life, all of a sudden BAM! I made a decision to make life easier and use the new hospital and it’s doctors. I obtained a new GP who ran me through every test so he could get to know me. Result: Stage one cancer. I felt nothing, had no symptoms. Went to the cancer specialist within this group, cancer was surgically removed and no chemo or radiation was required. I am fully recovered.
    Moral of my story: God surrounds me always, whether I feel it or not. This time he administered some heavy duty Divine Intervention.
    Happy New Year to you.

    • Hi Greg,

      I love your line, “God surrounds me always, whether I feel it or not.”

      I love it because it reminds me that it’s good to doubt my feelings. Sometimes they seem so real, but God alone is real, and my feelings are liars when they rebel against God’s goodness.

      And God’s goodness to you in this story is amazing. Thanks for sharing it.


  4. And I am so glad you do write Beliefs of the Heart. I’ve gotten so much out of your different articles because the subject matter seems to always be right where I’m at. And I often post your articles on Facebook. Thank you so much!!!!

  5. I have struggled with “God’s love seems like it’s on scratchy audio in a distant closet” for over 30 years. For a long time I assumed I was, like Much Afraid, just journeying through places where I couldn’t see far ahead, couldn’t see the Shepherd’s love and care for me. And then suddenly my kids weren’t kids anymore, and I was still struggling through the doldrums. I had head knowledge, but my heart was barely beating. I once told a small group, “I believe passionately, to tears even, in God’s love for each of you. But for myself, I feel like an acquaintance, not a favored child.” No one knew how to respond. They still don’t. I am a worship leader in my church, I plan and write worship services–good services, I’m told, that help people come to the throne room and experience the living God, and yet I still feel like the neighbor three doors down: nodding acquaintances, of the “how you doing?”/”Fine, how’re you?” class. (And my head knowledge tells me that’s MY problem, that God doesn’t choose that level of friendship–that I do.)

    Things have been changing recently. God’s outpouring of love and care on me and on my family as I deal with stage 4 cancer has been amazing. Phenomenal. Unbelievable, even. This spiritual non-struggle (it has been TOO easy to trudge through the fog rather than to work at relationship) that I’ve lived with for so long is suddenly at the forefront on my attention: kids, work, church, all those distractions have been sidelined. The nature of the beast is depression, and that makes it easy to dwell on my long coldness, but God will not let me go. I have wept more in the last year than in the last 30 years, and 99% has not been about cancer. The thaw is happening. The intimacy is being renewed.

    You have been such an encouragement to me. Thanks for continuing to write and to shine. 2 Cor. 4:6

    • Hi Jenny,

      As always, I appreciate your humble, honest, transparency. Your sharings encourage me. I loved your line, “I believe passionately, to tears even, in God’s love for each of you. But for myself, I feel like an acquaintance, not a favored child.”

      I think we all understand that. And maybe it’s even part of God’s plan; that you know God’s love for me and I know God’s love for you. It makes us need each other instead of being independent.

      I love the fact that your intimacy with God is being renewed, and that your tears are flowing.

      Thank you for sharing.


  6. Reminds me of one of my favorite Amplified Bible verses: Ephesians 3:19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!

    When I started praying that for myself (and others), things really changed for me, albeit slowly/gradually. I do now KNOW the love of Christ FOR ME.

    Good word, Sam, as usual!

  7. Thanks Sam. I always look forward to reading your posts. They always make me think and take stock of where I am in my walk with Jesus.

  8. This is beautiful. My last 8 years have been a series of ups and downs, mostly downs. But through it all, I’ve come to know God more intimately and tenderly, and I cling to His Word like never before. Sometimes we only want God to DO things for us, when He is longing for us to truly KNOW him.

  9. I’ve been told many times by people who suffer that God is good. It wrang hollow. Recently I’ve come to a place when clinging to how God loves and celebrates me was a great comfort in my frustrating circumstances and I was blown away to realize that declaring what I know of God brought peace. I had to gain this through journey with God.