When we cannot see. . .

An Essay By Ben // 9/8/2007

Dear Homeschooling Friends,

Morning inspirations often appear dim to me later in the day. It happened today when I woke up with the early morning sun shining into my eyes and the inspiration to write about what it means to "see" - or not to see - God.

First I decided to write my thoughts at a coffee shop. When I arrived I discovered they were closed (on a Saturday morning of all days!). With nowhere to sit I drove back home. As I was preparing to write at home, my sister walked up the stairs from the garage. She had just come home for the weekend and had the latest news from college. This news sent me reeling with old thoughts and recent memories... things that seemed far more pressing than my morning inspiration.

But - to see God?

Yes, I have more experience with not seeing God actually. Romano Guardini writes: "If I am not at least prepared to love God, I cannot 'see' him. His image will become more and more vague, disappear behind other things, and dissolve into nothingness."

Here is a personal example. I start to read today's morning prayer that goes like this:

Radiant Dawn of our salvation
Hope of life for all the earth!

Meanwhile my mind goes like this:

Oh, sure, here we go again praising (in chorus) the One who must be praised. But I don't feel anything - "Radiant Dawn" or no "Radiant Dawn." Who wrote this garbage anyway? And why do I even try to believe; I know I never have. Look how much happier I would be if. . . .

Imagine if this inability to see the point of God stayed with me always. Would not that be the state Guardini talks about, where the image of God has become vague, useless, meaningless? Sooner or later I would certainly lose my faith altogether. Yet sometimes these thoughts go on for weeks at a time.

The shadow that darkens my sight comes, I think, precisely from what I think I see around me everyday in the world at large. For instance, as I walked down Newbury Street on Thursday, coming out of my first architecture class in Boston, I felt utterly overwhelmed by what I saw. Newbury Street was abuzz with life as ever. Coffee shops, book-music-clothing stores: everything designed to please my age group. People talking, people flirting, people on cell phones, people shopping. Disturbed people, happy people. And the question came:

-Where do you stand in all this, boy?
-I guess I don't know.
-Are you going to live the secular life? You know you'd better learn how to get by.
-Or are you with Guardini, "at least prepared to love God?" Make up your mind.

How small God looked on Newbury Street! How powerfully I felt the presence of something else that threatened to envelope me. I realize how possible it is, through our own weakness, to lose sight of God, and how difficult it is because of our weakness to regain that vision. Think of Susan who never returned to Narnia. "In such a case," writes Guardini, "we must exercise patience and trust that God will not abandon us, his creature. He who has once created may also create again."


sticky arguments...

I enjoyed reading your essay - it was very thought provoking! - but I think I lost your argument when you talk about faith separately from "seeing" God. Isn't faith believing in something you cannot concretely see? When one loses sight of God, isn't that then a lack of faith? If I follow this argument correctly, you're discussing how faith can sometimes be hard to concretely grasp (see), particularly when viewing all of humanity through everyday (secular) people?
Perhaps Guardini's comment stems from a more primitive link between love and faith: One cannot have faith in something if you do not love that something. Losing "sight", and losing love, constitutes the lose of faith. If you do not want to lose faith completely, at least do not shut out love. Perhaps God was a larger presence on Newbury Street than you give credit for: perhaps love between people (people flirting, people talking to each other, people happy) is symbolic for love and faith, and thus seeing, God.

Christa | Mon, 09/10/2007


Love... Perhaps our world today has forgotten how to love, forgotten the very essence of Love itself.
And faith... Do we even believe in believing, any more?
Perhaps we are claiming to see, and living blind...on the verge of a miracle...

Aisling | Mon, 09/10/2007

more on faith, seeing, and love

Hi Mandolynn,

What Guardini says about seeing God brings the image of "The Simpsons" or "The Far Side" comics to mind. The entrance of God into either of these is always ludicrous--God appears as an elderly man, old-fashioned, passed over, at odds with reality. This kind of image of God, along with many others, can become hard images to shake.

But it is an accurate image of God without belief. I completely agree with you when you link love with faith. I don't quite know how to approach that subject, though.

Pope Benedict XVI says: "...only in a lifelong conversion can we become aware of what it means to say 'I believe.'"

And: "...God is and always will be the essentially invisible, something lying outside [man's] field of vision."

The Christian believer, Benedict points out, has a further element to his/her belief because God entered the world, became visible through the person of Christ. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

This is an interesting topic for me, so I appreciate the comments!

Ben | Fri, 09/14/2007

So interesting! What a

So interesting! What a powerful point you make: the cartoon-ish, old-school images of God become an accurate image of God without belief. This is very consistent with Aisling's comment about believing as well.
I find this interesting from a essayist as well as a religious viewpoint. Internal or symbolic ideas, such as beliefs, can be so hard to capture with words. You do a very nice job of doing so.
Thanks! -- Christa

Christa | Fri, 09/14/2007


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