Monday, April 13, 2015
I Became A Burnt Offering
I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as Mediator between God and man, and his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. This grace that appeared so calm and sweet, appeared also great above the heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception … which continued as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love him with a holy and pure love; to trust in him; to live upon him; to serve and follow him; and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure, with a divine and heavenly purity. I have, several other times, had views very much of the same nature, and which have had the same effects.
I have many times had a sense of the glory of the third person in the Trinity, in his office of Sanctifier; in his holy operations, communicating divine light and life to the soul. God, in the communications of his Holy Spirit, has appeared as an infinite fountain of divine glory and sweetness; being full, and sufficient to fill and satisfy the soul; pouring forth itself in sweet communications; like the sun in its glory, sweetly and pleasantly diffusing light and life. And I have sometimes had an affecting sense of the excellency of the word of God, as a word of life; as the light of life; a sweet, excellent life-giving word; accompanied with a thirsting after that word, that it might dwell richly in my heart.
From: A Personal Narrative by Jonathan Edwards.
I would like to highlight some parts of this quote that I find most interesting and with which I most closely identify, and for what reasons.
First of all, Edwards speaks of "a view" or "views." The person of Christ "appeared" to him in some way; Edwards "had a sense of" something or someone far beyond himself. As I have said before, I was - not of my own accord - both tied more closely to and detached further from my senses than in either what is experienced in normal consciousness or even in the most concentrated meditative exercises. I guess you could say that my senses were heightened - beyond the heavens. And, yes, when I say "beyond the heavens" there, I have a double meaning in mind. The first is simply that my senses of the ordinary environment were greatly heightened; the second is that, because I was "sensing" something that is beyond sense, I, at the exact same time and from the same infinately fountanous source, also felt an extreme, other-worldly detachment from all sense. Of course, as with Edwards, when I say "beyond the heavens" there, I am also referring to the greatness and seemingly vast expansiveness of what I "saw."
Secondly, in my last paragraph, and, mostly in my previous blog post on the subject, I referred to my having a sense of "something or someone far beyond [my]self." It is very interesting to me that Edwards says he saw "the glory of the Son of God." He speaks of what appeared to him as "the person of Christ." This probably gets at the heart of why I feel that my last post on this subject ("Standing in the Door," linked above) was misleading. There, I associated what I "saw" with Aristotle, Heidegger, and Dante. Considering how language really works (not like a copy machine) and that God desires to make himself known to us and to have union with us, I do not necessarily doubt that there were elements of what I "saw" in the ideas to which I was referring in that previous blog post. I think, however, that I did not highlight enough there, as Edwards did in his quote here, that what I "saw" was, in reality, either the very person of Christ or the Holy Spirit, at least as God wanted to communicate something about himself to me. In all cases of the in-breaking of the Spirit into my consciousness and my sense (in all of my mystical experiences), there was an element of grace, as if what was being given to me in those moments was not only not possible without the substance of divine grace but was itself a gift of a special love. In other words, at the foundation of what was granted to me was the Cross. Of course, that also means that what I "saw" was "personal." I did not see the contours and physical embodiment of a "person", at least not separately and distinctly from the creation that was made through him. But, instead, it was as if I saw the making itself, which means, I suppose you could say, I saw the hand of the Maker, who is a person, at work.
Speaking of God's desire for union with us and to communicate with us, I find it interesting that Edwards refers to his experience of Christ as "Mediator" and as "communicating" something to him. Edwards referred to "his holy operations, communicating divine light and life to the soul. God, in the communications of his Holy Spirit, has appeared as an infinite fountain of divine glory and sweetness; being full, and sufficient to fill and satisfy the soul; pouring forth itself in sweet communications; like the sun in its glory, sweetly and pleasantly diffusing light and life." I just wanted to highlight from this that, in all of my encounters with God, I got the sense that God wanted to communicate something to, and possibly even (in a sense) through, me. I also always had a sense that this desire to impart something about Himself to me was an expression of His love. And, because what I "saw" was so far beyond myself, I always thought and/or felt that what was being loved was far more than only me.
I also very much identify with what Edwards refers to in these experiences as Christ's "meek and gentle condescension...so calm and sweet" In all of my encounters with God, I have sensed the heat from an overwhelming and purifying fire. But, to varying degrees in each of my experiences, I have also sensed this "meek and gentle condescension." I think God knew I would be ripped apart at the seams of my being if He let me see the source of that fire. At the same time, I believe that part of why God granted me these encounters with Him was because of His desire for union with me and with his church, as demonstrated by his Passion. This Passion of Christ is the climax of the Incarnation, in which he "emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant." In other words, because of His desire for union with me coupled with my inability to withstand the fullness of the fire, He was willing to, as Mediator, show me merely a drop from the glorious fountain that is Him, in order that I may be washed. And, not only does he so pragmatically take into consideration the weakness of the seams of my being, but, this "meek and gentle condescension...so calm and sweet" is part of His very character in the first place. That is also why that is part of what I was "seeing." In the times when He has, in the wake of these encounters, asked me to correct the impurities of my being and of my self, He has done so with supreme gentleness. He did not overwhelm me with the whole force or power of His hand, demanding either immediate change or death. As in the very substance of His appearance to me, His Word to me came with the sweet savor of both humility and sovereign power wrapped up into one. Yes; I experienced God's humility before me. That is mind-blowing.
The idea that what Edwards was sensing "appeared also great above the heavens" is very intriguing to me, as well. I discussed this above, but I wanted to highlight Edward's point about it here. Neither he nor I literally saw "above" or "beyond" the heavens. We stepped foot on neither Mars nor the moon. The phrase is a reference to the GREATNESS of what we were granted to see. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." What - or WHO - appeared to me was clearly heavenly and greater than what ordinarily appears to me AS the very same objects and properties which you could say were what my eyes and ears were literally or physically sensing.
Also, Christ appeared to Edwards and myself with an "excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception." This is why I actually lose the capacity for speech when these encounters happen. As Eugene Peterson paraphrased Job 40: "I'm speechless, in awe - words fail me." Any words that Edwards or myself use to convey what Christ conveyed to us neither contain nor fully point out the reality at the heart of that fountain and fire that God, in His grace, revealed to us. It is not just that my mental and emotional capacities are overwhelmed. It's not just that I lose the ability to think on my own as I normally do on a day to day basis. It's that my very being itself - including my thoughts and feelings - is swept away into what I have described before as "something beyond myself," which Edwards here refers to as, well, Christ!
In addition, another brother in Christ was recently describing a similar encounter with God that was an answer to prayers requesting exactly that. Edwards' words would fit well with how my friend described what he experienced, namely that it "continued as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud..." I only experienced this in one of my encounters (while reading "The Shack"). For me, that particular experience was clearly one of healing. I think the intention to heal was largely why God broke into the hard, cold, stony tomb of my heart in that particular instance. Anyway, the point I want to make here is - as my friend described it and agreed with when I said it - the powerful and long-lasting emotion that we experienced was not the reality of the situation. Instead, we experienced constantly and regularly rhythmic tsunamis of the Spirit actually washing over, in, and through us. Waves of tears were what "naturally" came about as a result. The fact that the Spirit's work felt like overwhelmingly powerful waves of God's presence gently crashing through our being is why, I think, Edwards said that the communication of the Holy Spirit "appeared as an infinite fountain of divine glory and sweetness; being full, and sufficient to fill and satisfy the soul; pouring forth itself in sweet communications; like the sun in its glory, sweetly and pleasantly diffusing light and life."
Particularly in the encounter when I was left on the floor of my bedroom for about 45 minutes as a heap of holy tears of awe, thankfulness, and repentance, I also felt "emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love him with a holy and pure love; to trust in him; to live upon him." From dust I came, and to dust I already returned. I am a new creation. I believe Edwards would have said the same. Like all of creation through the person and work of Christ, I became a burnt offering.
Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]