When I was 17 I went on a trip to Thailand. Ever since I was five I have been caught up in wonderlust of the world. Since the moment I encountered a world traveler from South America in a small single hall church presenting his black and white slides on a single slide projector, I knew what I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to doing.
I would spend afternoons caught in mind consuming day-dreams of all the places I could go, the mysterious endeavors I could embark upon, the people I could meet and tell of Jesus. I would scour flea markets in search of foreign currency to fund my journeys, and book shelves for stories of missionaries to get insight on what I would be doing.
I was caught up in the mystery of God, awed at all that was before me. Then, progressively I became numb to this once enticing mystery. That was until Thailand.
Thailand is a fiercely Buddhist place. It has been and continues to be a place of spiritual darkness. Spirit houses marked each home and temples drew intense devotion and allure. Buddhism rests at the very core of what it means to be Thai. But it was this very mystery that impacted me.
One humid Thai morning we traveled to a temple complex that held the world famous Wat Pho (reclining Buddha). Entering the complex I was immediately intrigued. Wonder and fear hung in the atmosphere like a thick blanket. Captured in awe people went through religious activity before many imposingly grotesque shrines, each shrine staring fiercely off into the unknown, ominously beckoning enchantment. Mystery enshrouded the entire temple complex.
This mystery was captivating, awe inspiring and life changing. It was not the system or the religion that drew my interest, but the depth of mystery and the attraction it had on people.
It was then that I began to seek for the mystery I had once found so intense and profound. Over the next few years I tried to always balance good clear theology while also allowing my mind to spin in the beauty of the mystery of God. Some more intense than others, these moments continue to grasp my attention and fuel my continued pursuit of him.
I began to discover that often, my dry spiritual ruts came at the tail end of forgetting this mystery: forsaking the quest to plumb deeper and retreating to a position of casual familiarity and subsequent apathy.
But when these moments hit, I've been reminded of the words of John Calvin. "We know the most perfect way of seeking God, and the most suitable order, is not for us to attempt with bold curiosity to penetrate to the investigation of his essence, which we ought more to adore than meticulously to search out, but for us to contemplate him in his works whereby he renders himself near and familiar to us, and in some manner communicates himself." (Comm. Old Testament, I,v. 9., John Calvin).
I remember to take moments to adore and contemplate how he has revealed himself to us, to feel him near. I discover, especially as a student in a biblical course, that often my theological study reduces God to a variety of sub-points and statements; replacing his actual being. It is not until I find the time to simply adore him, that I am reminded of the first love that captivated me.
It's at these inexplicably sublime moments that we leave our own consciousness for but a moment in time. Something we all yearn for-breaking free from the sense of imprisonment we endure within our mortal bodies: escaping the simple and obtuse structures of life that hold us down, trapping us in a cyclical pattern of pain. And all the grandiose, the things which continually transfix our ever devalued attention, fade into the shadows-as for the briefest of times we can no longer be held down, glimpsing the ethereal splendor of the King.
Upon contemplation, we begin to record these events to no avail. Capturing this exquisite experience that transcends words is like recovering the spirits of those gone long before. Nothing gives value to that which is intrinsically invaluable- that which forever will be transfixed in the mind; immovable and inexplicable.
We begin to open our mouths, desiring more than anything to bring others into this paradigm shifting experience. Yet, as we listen to ourselves, we hear the words of a raving lunatic and a doctrinal liability. But yet, nothing-absolutely nothing, can led us away from the phenomenal moments of bliss in which our souls have been drown.
Like a desired disease these moments, unable to flow through pen and paper, lay latent in the mind. Threatening the stability of our psyche, but too alluring to dismiss, too fearsome to forsake. More powerful than a man with latent rage, these moments alter all of reality- filtering every moment through the lens of this philosophical nightmare. But all the rational analysis the mind can muster is no match for the fearsome force of this experience-giving birth to an idea, it begins restructuring the entire mind; shaping it in the mystery of a transcendent God drawn near.
It is this experience of the intense love of God that drives us to bring others into this same relationship and propels us deeper in pursuit of God. Cherishing his divine biblical revelation and personal presence can often lead us to the spiritual breakthrough that is hindered by what Calvin calls a meticulous investigation of God's essence over and against an adoration of his being with us. So, I continually remind myself to adore first, cherish first, and let God draw near to me; embracing such a divine mystery.
Then, let us go and call others into this marvelous light.
Dan Peterson (25) lives near Chicago, Illinois, USA where he works in refugee resettlement with World Relief. He enjoys discovering old books, new places, and good coffees. His dream is to summit a mountain on every continent and have a pet pygmy marmoset.
Dan Peterson's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/dan-peterson.html