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.
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.