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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jerry Root

Bearings On the Bright Blur

Updated: Jun 18, 2021

We are never more conscious than when we are aware of God. C. S. Lewis writes in chapter VII of Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly about Prayer that he was speaking to a friend about adoration. Lewis said he thought he had to begin worship by concentrating on the majesty of God and conjuring up images of His glory. At that point his friend, bent down and splashed some water from a nearby brook on his face and the back of his neck, then said, “Why not begin with this”?

The Glory of God is always on display. He is always wooing us and inviting us to become aware and refreshed in His Presence and watchful care. No momentary circumstance can eclipse for long the Transcendence or the Immanence of the Omnipresent One. The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote that, “Every bush is a burning bush and the world is crowded with God”. Similarly, Lewis observed that God walks everywhere incognito, our responsibility is to awake to Him, and even more to remain awake. Furthermore, Lewis wrote that every moment provides opportunity to take bearings on the “Bright Blur”, He becomes brighter and less blurry.

Also in Letters to Malcolm, Lewis asked his readers to consider the difference between gratitude and adoration. “Gratitude exclaims very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this!’ But, adoration asks. ‘What must that Being be like whose far off and momentary coruscations are like this?’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.”

I remember when I first read that Voyager the first interplanetary space probe was speeding past Saturn that most mysterious planet in our solar system. Photographs were taken, and sent back to earth. It was discovered at that moment that Saturn had a network of rings and the outer one, the F-ring, was braided. I was amazed at this discovery! Using Lewis’s words I caught myself asking, “Wow! What must God be like that He chose to braid the outer ring of Saturn even though no human eye had ever seen it until then!” I’ve asked physicists friends “Why is it braided”? They have yet to come up with a consistent, coherent explanation. So far, I’ve heard five probable answers but each one is a refutation of the others. I am sure astronomers will, one day, explain this extraordinary phenomenon. In the mean time I just ask, “What must God be like that he chose to braid the outer ring of Saturn though no human eye had ever seen it?” A friend of mine once said, “Yeah, we don’t even know if He just braided it for the picture.”

There are research ships that park themselves in the Pacific Ocean above seas that descend miles; and, into those depths, they dangle cameras on tethers deeper than the light of the sun can reach; and, they capture pictures of fish painted neon bright. Why do fish in such darkness have any color at all? That is a question I would like answered. It certainly cannot be to ward off a predator, or attract a mate, since there is no light at those depths. I suppose another important question is, “How do fish at those depths get together with other fish at all since there is no light?” Every time I think about it, I ask Lewis’s question, “Wow! What must God be like that He painted fish neon bright in the bowels of the ocean, even though no human eye might ever see it!

Growing up in Southern California, I loved to see palm trees silhouetted against an auburn sunset sky. Or, a mountain range silhouetted against an auburn sunset sky. Then I moved to the Midwest and I came to appreciate a cornfield silhouetted against an auburn sunset sky. There is beauty there if one would willingly distill it out. But, we could have lived on a planet with neither sunrises nor sunsets. Then one day, on our darkened planet we could have gotten word from on high that there would be one sunset. We could have lined every west coast of every continent and island on our globe and regaled our progeny with the glory of that great event by writing of it in our journals. But, what must God be like that He made our planet a perpetual kaleidoscope of both sunrises and sunset? To notice is to take Bearings on the Bright Blur.

It seems to me that one star twinkling in the night sky should be enough to awaken awe and wonder in the mind and heart of every right thinking and right feeling individual. But, what must God be like that He glittered the night sky with stars and moons and suns and galaxies and comets and shooting stars and the Northern Lights as they pulsate and coruscate in reds and greens and blues and whites?

What must God be like that He made delicate things like hummingbirds and butterflies and flower petals and peacock feathers? G. K. Chesterton once observed, “One elephant with a trunk looked odd; but, every elephant with a trunk looked like a plot!” Every day, to the observing eye, the plot thickens, as we are invited to ask what must God be like?

But, Lewis is too honest to stop there. He forces us also to ask questions like, “What Must God be like that there are devastating earthquakes in Haiti, or Tsunamis in Japan? What must he be like that there are Aids babies born in Africa, school shootings in America? What must He be like that there are global pandemics, human trafficking, and injustices all around? Lewis wrote, “If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; for it is precisely the puzzling or the repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need to know.” (The Weight of Glory, P. 31). Similarly, Lewis echoes this idea, often on his mind, “Where we find a difficulty we may always expect that a discovery awaits us.” (Reflections on the Psalms, p. 28). Take note: Those who are ready to reject God simply because of some puzzling circumstance may be rash; this is especially true when history reveals many reasonable people less quick to discard belief as they seek to understand more deeply. Furthermore, a momentary grasp of any situation, always gives way to further development. When the questions of a moment seeks to silence discussion, preventing more robust thought and contemplation, we lose in this kind of truncated approach to knowing about anything. We are at risk of becoming self-referential failing to understand the context of our wider world. There are mysteries of faith to be sure but one must not play the mystery card too quickly. We must take Bearings on the Bright Blur, there are depths and breadths still to know and grasp. And as we grow, we catch ourselves asking “What must He be like”? Here even our doubts, fears, and deepest questions can give way to gratitude and adoration.

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Abigail Joy Stevens
Abigail Joy Stevens
May 28, 2021

I can hear your voice reading this as I read it here in California. Your words wake-up that part of me that often goes to sleep while I'm making meals and changing diapers and picking up scraps of paper off the floor. It's refreshing to wake-up in these long days of caring for little ones.

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