God is the Friend of Silence

There is a moment in everyone’s life when we become aware of a Divine presence. For most of us that experience occurs in the pre-teen to early teen years. Organized religion recognizes that fact and tends to schedule some of their most important spiritual events around that time. Be it the Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah in the Jewish tradition, confirmation in liturgical traditions, or baptism in the evangelical traditions, there is a recognition that something special is happening spiritually around that time. Then we grow up, get drivers’ licenses, become independent, and go to college. Then we relegate the awareness of spiritual reality to a childhood experience somewhat less important than the game in which we made the winning score or our first kiss.

Daily stressors such as jobs and finances, as well as the distractions of always-available entertainment draw us farther and farther away from the quiet presence of God in our lives. But even now, you can close your eyes in this solitary moment, take a deep breath, and wrestle your focus away from the issues that dominate your thoughts. Look deeply inward. You can realize the abiding presence of God in the center of your being, and know the peace he brings into the stillness of your mind.

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Who are we praying to?

 There are three skills that, once learned, change everything. The first is learning to walk. The second is learning to read. The third is learning to pray.

 Most of us learned to recite prayers as children. We also learned to walk and read as children. As we grow older, we learn to refine our basic childhood skills so they serve us better as adults.

 When I was a child I had a Sunday school understanding of God. I saw God as a kind- and loving Supreme Being who was watching over me and caring for me. That concept worked fine when I was young, but as I grew older and faced increasing complexities in life, there seemed to be a lot of unanswerable questions. Many are able to live faith-filled lives with those questions unanswered. Increasingly, our culture is slipping into agnosticism and atheism as Sunday school answers no longer satisfy our modern understanding of the universe. I am personally of the conviction that if we are going to take the light of Christianity into the next generation, we are going to need to update how we talk about God and how we understand his relationship with his creation.

 Once, as I was visiting an exhibit of photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope, I was fascinated by a frame of a thousand stars of different hues and shapes. As I read the caption, I learned that these were not stars, but galaxies. The photo represented a small, dark portion of the night sky described as “about the size of a postage stamp” that allowed the Hubble Space Telescope to peer into space beyond our own galaxy. It was called the Deep Field. As I looked into the photo and allowed its impact to wash over me, I said to myself, “Ed, your God is too small.”

 I believe in God – not in a Catholic God; there is no Catholic God. There is God, and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the Light and the Creator. This is my Being. ~ Pope Francis

Absolute Truth

Theology is by its very nature a lost cause. It attempts to know the unknowable, classify the incomprehensible, and, in short, put the God who created and empowers the universe into a box definable in human language. Give me a break.

One of the basic principles of quantum physics is uncertainty. In short, there is an unknown and unknowable variable that makes absolute predictions impossible. This unknowable variable is called the delta factor. The delta factor is consistently inconsistent in both the quantum and the macro worlds. However, in any object larger than 15 molecules, the delta factor is so small as to be insignificant. In the sub-atomic world, the delta factor must be carefully taken into account.

So, if there is no absolute truth in the quantum world is there any absolute truth at all? Strangely, it is the inconsistency of the universe which is its greatest absolute truth. Quantum existence sometimes act like particles of matter. Sometimes they behave like waves of pure energy. Whatever they do changes whenever we observe them, and we have no idea what they are doing when we are not observing them. Actually, they sound not unlike the boxer puppy we are dog sitting for our daughter.

This brings to mind an obvious truth. Life is unpredictable.  It is so unpredictable that it would be unsustainable were it not for that mysterious constant (assigned the Greek symbol lambda in Einstein equations) that keeps the universe together. It is the constant (C) that makes relativity (E=mC2) possible.

The universal constant, the absolute truth that makes sense of the universe is God. It is not a mathematical equation that can be repeated with unerring certainty. It is not a physical property that can be measured and analyzed with invariant results.

Human language cannot express who or what God is, but he is there. Every time we delve deeply into the fundamental substance of the universe, we see the evidence of his presence. God is the spiritual reality that makes the physical world possible. Take the spiritual reality away, and the physical universe ceases to exist. It disintegrates into a void of anomalies and irreconcilable dilemmas.

Theology may be a lost cause, but approaching God is not. Human experience takes over where human knowledge, understanding, and language fall short. Jesus summed up God in a single word, “Father.” Our understanding and knowledge of God is so finite and misguided, that it can only be safely said that we know nothing of God – but we can know God and call him Father. When it comes to God, it is not knowledge that we seek, but relationship – and in that relationship, faith.

Of course, from high school we get the idea that the universe follows this neat set of natural laws that are never violated. This framework created the “Clockmaker” concept of God who wound up the universe and then left it to run by itself. But the strange truth is that if the universe followed the classical laws of physics, there would be no universe. A key element that makes the universe work is uncertainty.

I have been told that it is aerodynamically impossible for the bumblebee to fly. Good thing no one has told the bumblebee. Similarly, it is impossible, according to the laws of classical physics, for the Sun to shine. Good thing no one has told the Sun. It is the principle of uncertainty that seems to guarantee that a small percentage of quantum particles will break the rules. With an object as big as the Sun, that percentage is enough to provide light and life to the Earth.

I, and I think a lot of other people, would love for my life to be predictably governed by a neat set of rules. I wish I could always predict the outcome of my thoughts, actions, and encounters with others. But life isn’t like that. It is unpredictable and uncontrollable. It is the unpredictability of life that causes us to search for meaning and purpose – and ultimately to find God.

When Einstein discovered the principle of uncertainty, he rejected it with his famous words, “God does not play dice.” It was others who developed and proved the concept. I don’t know if God plays dice, but I do know he plays by a different set of rules than the ones we would like to impose on him. As C. S. Lewis wrote of Aslan, the Christ figure in his Chronicles of Narnia, “He is not a tame lion.”