More Than a Feeling
By Timothy W. Tron
We walked up the mountain top wading through a sea of tall summer grasses. There were no trees, only highland meadows. You could reach your arms out to your side and runs your fingers along the tops of the stalks as you walked, tickling the palms of your hands as you passed. Around us, the clouds had descended until we walked in an atmosphere that was calming and bewildering at the same time. The heat of the day quickly dissipated as the mist enveloped our small hiking group. It was as if we were walking through a dream. Were we still on earth, or had we suddenly found ourselves walking in Heaven? The Pauline statement came to mind, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
Wading through the tall summer grasses heading to the summit of Sled Hill always provided a sense of achievement. Once there, towering above the little hamlet of New Harmony, one could purvey the entirety of the small village from the height of the hill. While it was only a hill, it felt closer to God. Several years later, I would find myself on a much taller mountain, in the Cottien Region of the Alps, nearly 10,000 feet up. There, for a few minutes of life, a hiking companion and I communed with God. It was a feeling that words cannot adequately describe. To feel his presence and to be so near – yet, so far to go. The sense of touching the stalks of grass to the feeling of being in God’s presence shows us how our body’s translate sensation into emotion. An almost imperceptible path is created from the input of feeling to the emotion of feeling. In our walk of life, the terrestrial realm, our perception of reality influences our thoughts whether we want it to or not.
For in this world, we may find ourselves seeking God but focused on the wrong target, as Paul Washer would say. He compares it to looking through the scope of a rifle. Closing one eye and aiming toward the target, we might find the crosshairs in the scope and errantly focus on them. But the better marksman allows his eye’s focus to go beyond the crosshairs and to fix upon the target. It is the same with how we should perceive our terrestrial life on earth. While we are in the body, we are not where we ultimately want to end up. Our goal – Heaven, of course.
Yet, there is so much to get through to get there. We face so many obstacles, so many challenges, that alone, we cannot achieve them. Our bodies are amazing. God’s creation is not only in everything we see but also in who and what we are. But how does our sense of touch, our feeling of the world around us, affect our ability to reach our goal or to prevent it?
The sense of touch is the only sense not related to a specific organ and is therefore known as a General Sense. All the others, the sense of sight, hearing, taste, and smell, are called Special Senses. To touch something is to feel it with the sensory receptors in our skin. Our skin, the largest organ of our body, is our body’s way of communicating with the world around us. Each moment in our life, we are, in some way, somehow relating to an object or atmospheric presence which we interpret through our flesh.
As we type on the keyboard, as I am doing now, there is a certain tactile feel to the keys on the keyboard. When we read, those of us born before the digital era prefer to feel the palpable feeling of paper on our fingers as we turn the page or hold the book. Something is satisfying about the activity of reading that requires the act of turning a page. Likewise, there are many attributes in our daily life that we take for granted, but they would give us discomfort if they were presented to us without our knowing. One example is the switch from plastic straws to paper. There is something unusual to the feeling upon one’s lips and tongue to a paper straw, when all one has ever known, is a plastic straw. It is this awkwardness that is similar to how we should always find the things of this world when they go against the will of God, but I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, let’s focus on the fact that feeling and touching things in the world around us is a significant part of our everyday life.
The scriptures clearly warn us, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” It seems that more and more every day, we face obstacles meant to trip us up. Desires of the flesh are constantly bombarding us. When we think we’ve conquered one, the enemy finds another weakness to exploit and tempts us in ways we could have never imagined. How many of you have a phone, also known as your “Device?” Isn’t it odd that it requires seemingly constant attention? Whether it’s the little bells going off reminding you someone has texted you or your need to look something up, to which we now say, “Just Google it,” the battle is real. Those devices can present images that lure us into desires of the flesh or worse. Once again, scriptures warn us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
We must be ever watchful. But we don’t have to go it alone. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh… If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
But how do we know we are walking in the spirit? Can we feel it? Does it make us feel a certain way? C.S. Lewis put it like this, “The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise, when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.”
But being in the body and absent from God creates a problem. Those seemingly limitless sensations we experience each minute of our life can either add to our sanctification or take away from it. It all matters on where you are in your faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen.” So, how can we comprehend Heaven as real when all that we know is what we can sense through our earthly context? Of course, it requires one to believe what cannot be seen, which in itself is an act of faith. As Jesus told Thomas when he had just finished inspecting his risen body, touching the holes from the nails in his wrists, to thrusting his fist into the hole in his side, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
But there is something else that reassures us that we are walking in the right direction through various moments of confirmation; the Holy Spirit. The Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all seek to know us. When we accept Him into our lives, we are made anew. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;”
When we walk as Christ, we learn to hear his voice and direction. The Great Comforter, the Holy Spirit guides us. It is then we can finally discern when to take those feelings of this world and use them to help us focus on our goal – life eternal.
Although we will experience all manner of troubles and trials to reach those mountain tops in our lives. “The flesh is weak” reminds us that not only does it so easily give in to temptation, but it also fails us as time passes. Age becomes the great equalizer, and the aches and ailments grow in number. But we find as our faith grows that it all fades away when we are in His presence.
For those fifteen minutes of my Alpine journey, sitting on the edge of the world and looking out upon a valley below, we felt washed in the glow of God’s Grace. Those aches and pains that it took to reach the summit had vanished, washed away like our sins by the blood of Christ. Below us, a valley stretched to the horizon. Like the veins of life, the rivers course through its tortuous rocks and cliffs. Waterfalls echo voices of distant saints gone on before. Before us soared a raptor, finding the thermals; at home in his place before us as we sat and watched him as the wind blew past our place of repose. I closed my eyes and savored the multitude of sensations and feelings that flowed through me at that moment. Communing with God can never grow old.
Then, in the blink of an eye, it was time to leave, but like those tiny, minuscule glances of Heaven on earth, it was worth a lifetime of torment. If a man were but for a second shown what Heaven would be like, he would forever, for the rest of his breathing days, would gladly shed blood, sweat, and tears to just once more find that moment of eternal bliss. Those moments like these become the confirmation of the truth that our eternal home awaits us. It makes Jesus’ words to his disciples even more precious when He said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
Stretch your arms out wide and embrace God’s creation every day in your life. Let your fingertips caress the tall grasses of the high mountain meadows, savoring those sensations, but be forever mindful of the ultimate goal. For we must allow our senses to be heightened for all the right reasons and, in so doing, will guide our footsteps ever closer to eternity in the presence of God the Father. And remember, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
Thanks be to God.
Timothy W. Tron lives in Collettsville, NC. with his family. He is currently the Systems Administrator for the Computer Science Department at App. State. Timothy is the former Director of the Trail of Faith in Valdese, where he still volunteers and helps with tours. He is the author of a new Christian series, “Children of the Light”, with the first book being, “Bruecke to Heaven”, revised as “Bridge to Heaven”, and his recent book, being the second, “The Light in the Darkness”. He is an active blogger, artist, and musician. Timothy also has a BSEE from UF, and is a Lay Speaker. He is currently acting as the Faculty/Staff Liaison for the Ratio Christi campus ministry at App. State. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org You can visit his website at //www.timothywtron.com/ or see more of his writings HERE