About a year ago, during what I (JP) refer to as my re-conversion to Christianity, I read a book called “Knowing God” by J.I. Packer. It was a wonderful book. It got me very quickly to realize how small I have traditionally made God out to be. But it also got me to realize how far from actually knowing God I was – although I was beginning to know things about God, I wasn’t necessarily coming to know Him. But I wanted to! But the book didn’t give me those answers. It did tell me that God was spirit, and that he is limitless, and all-powerful, but it didn’t give me the answers to my heart’s growing and burning questions: “God, what do you look like?” “What do you sound like?” “What do you feel like?” “Can you please reveal yourself to me? I want to know you.”
A month or so went by after this, during which time I was praying fervently that God would reveal himself to me. I was also reading the Holy Scriptures, seeking to know God as best I could. But all the while, I was calling out “God, please reveal yourself to me. I just want to know you!”
And then it happened. One night on one of my many commuter train rides home from Northwestern – this time it was the 11PM train after teaching a night class – I found myself asking God again to reveal himself to me. And then I heard it, inaudibly, but I heard it, or better said, I just knew. It was an epiphany moment. It was a light bulb going off. I describe it as God telling me. All of a sudden, in answer to my plea “reveal yourself to me,” I heard “I already did. Jesus.” Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I hope you can imagine my sheer joy, my awe, my satisfaction and peace, my adrenaline and energy, all wrapped up in one simple little moment on the commuter train with people and life going on all around me like a typical 11PM train ride normally contains. But in that moment, in my seat, my life just changed forever. I was thrilled. God had answered my prayer. I raced home and rapidly typed out a long e-mail to a couple of my prayer group friends who had been hearing me pray this request to God for at least a few weeks. I couldn’t contain myself. I had just fell in total love with Jesus, and I hardly even knew him yet!
Since this all took place, I have not been able to keep my eyes off Jesus. I am fixated on him. Like Mary in the story of Mary and Martha, all I want to do is sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him speak. When I read the Gospels I join the crowd as one who is there in the first century AD, and I just watch Jesus work. I watch God act, speak, move, and love as a human being. It is the most fantastic and precious gift we could ever ask for. For all those asking the same question I asked – “God, what are you?” – here is the answer in Jesus! Jesus is God. Incredible, nearly. A mystery, yes. Does Jesus say this about himself? YES! Why did I miss this my whole life? I think I know.
I’ve heard it said that until someone is asking the question, the answer is un-impactful. That applies to my story here. Even growing up a Christian, it wasn’t until my heart was pleading with God for him to allow me to know him that I realized the depth of the gift he gave us by becoming man. Now I can know him. Now I can know God.
And what I have even more recently come to appreciate is that Jesus is still alive today!
Oh to know him deeply.