I walked into my secretary’s office this morning and looking out the window into the entrance way. As I looked through the window I saw dust floating in a beam of light. My first thought was to C. S. Lewis’ description of his own encounter with a beam of light in his shed and how it sparked his thoughts on God. (If you aren’t familiar with this story search “Meditation in a Toolshed” it is also published in God in the Dock). As I looked harder at the beam I realized something important, it was a reflection in the window; the real beam of light was behind me. This was at once troubling because my mind was focused on the epiphany moment Lewis had standing in the shed. Here I am already caught up in someone else’s encounter with God and suddenly realizing that what had triggered it for me was only an illusion. This was troubling because I wanted to know in that instant that my encounters with God were real and not my attempts to live vicariously through the lives of others. What would it say about my faith if I had never truly encountered the God I proclaim so readily?
That brings me almost up to the present (the present being ever fleeting), since I am literally sitting at the computer processing this event. As I sit here though trying to reclaim the presence of that moment I am recognizing a few things. First is that this is not a crisis of faith moment. Faith is the ability to listen to Professor Lewis when he says he encountered God in a beam of light. My faith cannot depend on my experiences, it is my ability to listen to and believe the experiences of others. This is the message of Thomas in John 20. Thomas is chided because he did not believe the other disciples had an encounter with Jesus (believe without seeing). Thomas could not let the experiences of others lead him to his own encounter with the risen Lord. Why should I be concerned about my faith?
I also happen to be reading Lewis’ Screwtape Letters right now and I thought how easy it can be to fall into temptation. The temptation was twofold, all my encounters with God had really been reflections of others encounters, and that I was deceiving myself that God was nearby. Did this one false streak of light mean I had never have a genuine experience with God? Of course not. But, how easy it was to forget my entire life in that one moment of optical illusion. In that instant I could have chosen to allow myself to be led down the rabbit hole; convinced that my entire life was wrong. Obviously, a complete loss of faith would not have happened so abruptly, but the second of temptation left unprocessed could have started the snowball of doubt. Of course, even if that moment of doubt was true that I have never had a genuine experience of God, I go back to the words issued to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” These are the ones who are strong they can exist on the experiences of others, they are able to trust, not simply their own minds and hearts, but all of God’s messages.
The third idea which has occurred to me was God was there in that moment. Not in the thoughts of Professor Lewis’ meditation, as I pointed out, that thought served as a source of temptation. God was not in the feeling of the moment, where my spirit was lightened by joy of sharing in the same experience of a person I admire. No, like Elijah experienced, God was in the stillness. God was in the silence that led me to think and mediate on the experience. God was present with me, but it was not until I sat down and began to reflect on the moment that I saw God and understood the Divine Presence. In full confession, because of interruptions it has taken me all morning to finish this post and I have revisited the experience of the morning multiple times. I have been forced to see my failings in doubt, and been reliving the presence of God again and again as I reencounter a fleeting moment from my past. What happened this morning, I saw the reflection of light in a window, and as I continued to look toward that reflection I saw the Light.