I am grateful for the wisdom my parents had in their selectivity in what Santa Claus brought my brother and I for Christmas. We received toys (yay!) and clothes (boo!). But what I treasure most were the gifts that lit my curiosity and led me to explore. I remember getting a Gilbert Microscope for Christmas when I was in the 5th grade. I spent hours collecting everything from bugs to house dust to see what it all would look like “up close.” I could even do experiments using dyes and such to stain a slide to uncover some of the mysteries of the unseen.
The microscope as I can best remember had three powers: 50x, 100x and 200x. Of course I was most fascinated with the 200x because I could see much more intricately up close about the micro life inside the organism. The only problem I ran into is that sometimes the 200x would require the lens to be so close to the slide that I tightened the lens into the slide, cracking it. I lost a lot of slides this way. Once the slide was cracked, the specimen was ruined to the eye and I could no longer see it.
The other thing I noticed later is that when “scoping” in to the specimen I narrowed the field of the life surrounding the specimen. I was then blind to the context of the life around that micro portion of the specimen. I found that it was good to look from all perspectives of what vision the microscope would give me. All magnifications gave a purposeful vision and taught me about the parts and the sum of the parts.
I remember at a preaching conference I went to in Colorado years ago while working in that diocese. Tom Troeger, a gifted member of the clergy was a superb teacher, who used imagery, imagination and story to both widen and deepen our abilities to capture the images in a biblical story and expand them for the people to hop onto, much like hopping on a bus, allowing the story to take us into places we have never travelled. During the workshop, one participant kept bringing up the subject of “intercessory prayer” as being the most important ministry for him. It didn’t bother me at first as I believe intercessory prayer to be important. But I became annoyed because this fellow was fixated on the subject and would speak of nothing else, such as scripture, other kinds of prayer, spiritual writings and other sources of our spiritual life. He reminded me of the microscope on high power only.
Today we are inundated with what I called microscopic viewpoints that focus only on a solitary subject without taking into context other factors surrounding it. This happens across the board in the churches, politics, education, medical and mental health fields and others. They can become so attenuated to one topic or perception that it becomes distorted. In the church, we call this heresy, or as I like to joke, “hearsay.” Hearsay, is merely words without substance or grounding in reality. Hearsay or heresy is cruel, according to my former Systematic Theology Professor, Fitz Allison, who wrote a book, The Cruelty of Heresy. Heresy and hearsay distorts the mind, spirit, heart and the will, creating great suffering for those affected by it and sometimes by those whose lives they affect.
For example, there is an ancient Second Century heresy called Docetism, which keeps creeping up throughout history. Docetists deny the humanity of Christ because they think it would have been cruel for God to allow Jesus to die so they believe that Jesus didn’t really suffer and die. There’s a reason why Good Friday is the least attended liturgy during the Church Year. We have trouble with suffering. Christ went through his. When we fail to address suffering, we fail to learn the spiritual lessons in life and we fail to realize the deep intimacy of Jesus when he is with us during our most difficult times, blocking God’s love. Since we avoid to deal with suffering, we create a pretend reality around it to attempt to escape it, and thus lose the awareness of Christ’s presence within it. When we run away from life we run away from God. To deny suffering runs very close to denying evil and attempting to escape it in counterfeit ways, such as blaming others for it. Isolating items out of their greater context offers no path to healing and restoration, only conflict. We need the macro, the middle and the micro working of the Spirit to integrate the parts of our minds, bodies and souls to work congruently within ourselves and with others.
May God bless our inner and outer vision so that we become more aware of the Spirit’s action in us and the world and to be able to live out this vision of wholeness from which only God can give.