Describing spirituality is tough to do for someone who isn’t particularly spiritual. Talking about how we see an intangible God working in a tangible world is quite a task at times. That’s why I’m very grateful for the 1988 classic movie starring ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, ‘They Live’
In the movie, Rowdy plays a man given a pair of glasses that help him see an evil alien invasion slowly taking place all over earth. When he wears these glasses, he is able to distinguish between real people, and aliens who are posing as human beings. The hardest part for Rowdy is that he is the only one who can see the aliens for who they really are, so of course everyone else thinks he’s crazy.
The thing is, if Piper doesn’t keep the glasses front and center in his life, everything looks normal and okay. If he isn’t intentionally looking for what’s out of place, everything will look like it did before. But once he puts those glasses on, Rowdy can see the world for what it really is.
Christians struggle to remember that they’re not actually citizens of any one particular country; we’re citizens of heaven who are displaced aliens and immigrants here on earth. The problem is that we haven’t looked through our glasses enough.
So our vision has become veiled, and we can’t see things as they should be. It’s tricky to see the spiritual life we’re called to live, because so much of the world distracts us and looks normal. In order to see the spiritual side of life clearly, we have to pierce that veil, and step over the threshold from seen to unseen, even if it remains a bit blurry at first.
That’s what makes pursuing a spiritual life so dangerous.
Because once you cross that threshold, once you pierce the veil and see the spiritual side of life, the world changes. You no longer see people for the wrongs that they done to you; as Bonhoeffer said: “Instead of seeing their neighbors as people who have injured them, they see them as people for whom Christ has won forgiveness on the cross”.
And once you look upon someone with grace in your heart and eyes, it is among the most beautiful sights we can bear witness too. The only way to see this beautiful sight, however, is by letting go of anything else that is already in your heart. Hatred, anger, self righteousness, greed. Whatever else would consume you becomes your veil.
Seeing the spiritual realm will also break your heart and crush your spirit from time to time. You see greater pain and injustice in the world. When you look upon the whole earth with the sight of God, it shakes you to your core and compels you to act. Idleness is no longer an option.
Wow. That got deep fast.
Let’s step back a bit and talk about how we “see” the spiritual side more clearly.
There’s something called ‘geocaching’. Essentially it’s a giant scavenger hunt across the world. All you need to get started with it is a GPS device that you can plug in satellite coordinates and the willingness to travel. At each of the coordinates, there is supposed to be a cache; some container with different things in them. Sometimes, the container is the object you’re looking for. Here’s how it works:
You go online and see how many caches are near you, choose one, and set the coordinates in your GPS. Then you go to wherever the cache is. The trick is that the caches often blend into their surroundings so that they don’t get stolen or taken away. So you need to look around for anything that may have been placed there, or where something may be stashed. You may have to dig a little dirt up, or look up in a tree, etc. Once you find it, you log it, and perhaps even add your own flair to the cache you just found. Then you move on to the next one.
In Christianity, there are hundreds of different spiritual disciplines, practices, and techniques. All of them are ways to connect with God. Some of them are more profound than others, though a lot of that can depend on the person.
Now, if we were totally honest, we (American christians) have gotten kind of lazy in using these disciplines and practices. I mean, we have gotten used to convenience and ease, so even the notion of ‘discipline’ is unsettling. But if we don’t use these practices and disciplines, we miss out on a lot. Let me say it another way:
If we only look for God on the trail we’re currently looking at, we won’t see Him in the trees above us. If you only pray the same prayers, read the same passages, and only go to church (instead of getting more involved), pretty soon you’ll have a God who looks like He did five/ten/thirty years ago when you started.
And you’ll miss out on the immense scope of who God truly is.
So search far and wide. Look high and low. Dig beneath the surface.
Pray prayers you don’t know, fast, read passages you don’t understand, serve people you don’t know, memorize passages, use incense in your prayers, sing songs you don’t know, whatever it takes to find God.
God wants to meet us on the other side of the veil. We just have to be willing to look.