Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Truth on its way to being truer

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

A phrase sticks in my mind from recent reading. . . . "Truth on its way to being truer. . . ." Can something true become truer? In absolute terms, no, it's either true or it isn't. But, in terms of our understanding of truth, surely the answer is yes. Our understanding is only partial, and our grasp of the truth something that has to develop and mature. An apple's an apple from the first swelling of the bud, but there's little joy trying to eat it at that stage. It needs time to ripen.

If we could grasp that it would save so much pain and conflict. We fight so hard to protect "the truth", yet often we are only fighting to protect our own imperfect understanding of it. Like children, we cling to our first experiences. We hold tight to a few proof texts we learnt in our spiritual adolescence, as though that was the limit of what God has to teach us. Really, the truth we know is only the hors-d'oeuvre, a first course to whet our appetite for what comes later. The problem is that we're too insecure to follow the truth wherever it leads; we prefer to cage it, tame it, pretend that we possess it all.

Truth has to move on, not abandoning but enriching what went before. The end result is a deeper truth that may look very different from our original version. I remember an early orchestral concert in my teens. The power and drive of Sibelius' Second Symphony floored me. It opened my mind to new things, but it's not the only music I listen to now.

Truth is a life-long, inner pursuit, but we make it with him: we in him, he in us (John 17:21,23). The truth lives in us, encouraging, leading us into deeper truth; and helping us to work it out in daily living.

"God is on the point of your pencil, on the edge of your ploughshare," as Teilhard de Chard in says. I'm not sure I grasp the full meaning of that, but it contains the assurance that he's part of my life, sharing what I do, what I am. Even sharing my search for deeper truth, and leading me into it.

It's comforting, Lord, to think I have the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Reassuring, to peg the world down,
hold it fast in the chains of my small knowledge.
Tie it up and relax.

But Lord, the truth's a sleeping giant.
And when he wakes
all my Lilliputian certainties are torn out, screaming,
by a twitch of his hand.
My little dogmatisms damaged past repair.

Your truth stands towering over me.
However far I reach on tiptoe,
however much I try,
it stays beyond my reach.
Too great to hold, too high to comprehend.

Forgive my arrogance.

I can't reach further than truth's shoelace
and yet I claim to know it all.
I try to tame you,
hold you in the cage of my timidity.
Make you predictable and safe.
The truth is -
and there I go again, Lord, telling you -
it frightens me to think that all the world I see out there
is only a beginning..
That as I walk, hesitating, towards the far horizon
it moves away.
However much I see and learn, there's more.
And what I hold, though precious, is still partial,
the dim image of the glories yet to come.

Lord, turn my mind around.

Help me to realise that what I see
as never-ending quest, a constant learning,
is not a threat, but an adventure, lived with you.
Help me to understand that the infinity that beckons me,
is an infinity of love.

And as I take the road afresh, each day,

I’m not sure where it leads, or where I’m going,
but I’m going there with you.
And that’s enough.

From: No Strange Land by Eddie Askew
(all proceeds support The Leprosy Mission)

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