Is seeing believing? His words were thoughtful and true. For over a century and a half now, much of what he shared continues to resonate with value and carry a ring of truth. If you’ll pardon the pun, you’ll both see and understand what I mean. He said this:
- Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.
- Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.
- Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.
- I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations – one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it – you will regret both.
- Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown.
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher and theologian who crafted the quotes I shared, accomplished much in the course of his lifetime. In his case, that was only 42 years, but his contributions regarding Christian ethics and faith are important.
He told of a small circus that travelled from town to town. I guess that is a practice that has continued through today. After all, the circus comes and the circus goes. It is a source of enjoyment for many; especially kids.
In Kierkegaard’s story, they would post flyers and handbills around the community and set up their tent on the outskirts of town. About an hour before the performance was scheduled to begin, the circus tent caught on fire. Most of the troupe was still getting dressed for the performance, so the clown who was the only one already in costume, was sent running into town for help.
The clown was very effective in getting people’s attention. He ran from person to person pleading with them to bring water pails to help. I guess if you’ve seen one clown, you’ve seen them all. After all, they are known for their trade. It is their job to make people laugh. His pleas for assistance were interrupted as a clever way to get a crowd to the circus.
Kierkegaard expressed it this way: “They heard the clown with their eyes.” They processed information based on how he looked. It was not until they saw the fire on the horizon did they realize the message was real.
“Seeing is believing”, but in terms of eternity and quality of life, doesn’t faith have more importance that what one can see? Do you remember the story of doubting Thomas? Following the resurrection of Christ, all of the disciples with the exception of Thomas saw the risen Lord. When they shared with Thomas that Christ had arisen, he said basically, “I have to see it for myself.” A week later, the time came when he had that opportunity. Christ suggested that he stop doubting and believe. Thomas responded, “My Lord and my God.” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
I had the privilege of spending yesterday with a long-term friend and his family who are in the midst of sadness and grief associated with pending separation, but yet they cling to the promises of Christ’s words that there is no death for the children of God, only a time of separation.
Theirs is a faith walk. In every respect, the man’s two children are following their dad’s lead. He is totally at peace with the transition before him. Sure, if given the opportunity he’d opt to stay longer, but he recognizes that is not a choice ultimately for him to make. It is all in God’s hands and timing. Consequently, he finds none of it unsettling. It really is a basis for peace and a sense of calm. He has the hope of tomorrow and eternity shared with loved ones.
That hope is transcends the ability to simply see and believe. It is grounded in the faith of the One who holds tomorrow. That hope is enough for him and it is enough for his family.
During the course of the day, I observed many tender moments. I was especially touched by the heartfelt communication between the patient and his doctor. In a day where medical practice is often defined as assembly line medicine, it was refreshing to sense something very different. The level of compassion and concern was generally heartfelt.
That patient expressed his gratitude and thanks to the cardiologist for providing him a lifeline over the past twenty-five years. The doctor said, “No, I need to thank you. You’ve taught me a lot. It has been my privilege to have you as a patient”. His words seemed genuine and true. The doctor’s voice tone, his level of emotion, his body language all indicated that being a doctor was a sense of calling. It wasn’t just a job.
The doctor then said, “Did I ever tell you about that Christmas Eve when I spent two hours with you?” [Note: Emergency surgery following a second heart attack] Without waiting for a response, the doctor said: “No, I don’t think I did.” He said: “At the time, my children were very young. Back then, it was always my practice to dress up as Santa and put their gifts under the tree before they woke up. Well that Christmas Eve, I really messed up. I forgot to turn off the house alarm. So it went down like this, I was dressed like Santa, attempting to get into my house. That set off the alarm and the police showed up to arrest me. I had a lot of explaining to do. It was also pretty upsetting for my kids to see the police in their home to arrest Santa”.
As it turned out, what was thought to be “the last day” for the patient wasn’t, but the time of his departure is very near and he is ready. His faith is in that which he cannot see, but it is more than enough.
All My Best!