A quote I will never forget

Throughout my life, there have been certain statements that have opened doors into my mind and heart, letting air and light into them, shifting my whole sense of being. Here is one of the most important of them:

“What can be seen on earth indicates neither the total absence, nor the manifest presence of divinity, but the presence of a hidden God. Everything bears this stamp.” 

What Blaise Pascal wrote in the 1600’s became that open door one afternoon after I had finished my teaching responsibilities at the high school. I had been going through a dark season of intellectual doubt and emotional turmoil, struggling to process all that was churning inside of me. I was out on a picnic table in the warm sunshine enjoying the quiet as I read Pascal’s Pensées. I ran across the above quote and felt an electric tingling well up inside. After I had underlined the quote and written YES in the margin, I looked up and everything around me seemed tinged not just with the glow of the sun but with glory. It was as if I had been given a key that turned a lock, making sense of so much of the sadness and wonder in my life. I knew beyond knowing that it was true. 

Even today, years later, that quote still haunts me, for we all sense that life is a puzzle with a missing piece, a lock with a missing key. But the very fact that we know that we have lost something requires that what is missing really exists; otherwise, we would never feel the loss.

What is that loss? It is the presence of the now hidden God. Unbidden and often unrecognized, we ache for that presence in almost every motion of our hearts. We are in fact so used to the loss that when the transcendent shining of that presence is no longer hidden, we are overwhelmed with its weight and joy. It’s as if someone lost in a cave for days comes out into the sunlight. It’s painful and blinding. No wonder Paul prays that we would be strengthened so that we could hold Christ’s presence in our hearts (see Ephesians 3:16-17).

Like Paul, let us pray that our hearts would be made into a home for his presence. Only that presence will give us rest. Only that presence will heal our hearts. And one day that presence will no longer be hidden—it will be manifest, seen by all.

That will be healing of the world.

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