Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Seeking the Real and the True

What is real?

Many years ago I landed in Montreal after a two year stint in rural Malawi as a volunteer teacher. My first thought as my family drove me away from the airport through the winding cement highways of the city was, ‘This can’t last.’

I had spent my two years in a rural location, in a country which at the time had no traffic lights, no billboards, no television, little variety in food, and whose one main highway was still not entirely paved. After the fields and forests of Malawi, Montreal’s flashing lights, towering buildings and congested highways appeared not civilized, but rather like the bedroom of a spoiled infant so choked with toys and things that no one can find the floor.

So I come back to the question: ‘What is real?’

Quite often people who don’t believe in a higher power (God) will tell me their disbelief is based on the fact that they have no proof of such a divinity’s existence. There is nothing they can touch, nothing they can hold, nothing they can point to that would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists.

The trouble is that they’re looking for things. But physical things are only real in the immediate sense of today. Wealth and possessions are tenuous and temporary. They cannot lead us to truth, wisdom, faith or love. And they won’t last.

Reality is found beyond the tangible. It lies beyond human touch and human eyesight. In order to understand what is truly real we must look with the heart.

We find what’s real in human relationship, in friendship and community, in compassion and fellowship. There too, we find God. In hospitality and love, we find the deep Spirit of faith. The word ‘companion’ comes from the Latin root ‘com pane’, or ‘with bread’, because if we live our companionship with each other, then our things, even our food, become no more than tools for sharing. The fellowship of a meal leads us to the fellowship of God. This is what Jesus pointed to when he said ‘Where two or three of you are gathered in my name, I am there with you ’ (Matt 18:20; CEV).

It’s an interesting fact that people who live in the impoverished countries of the south, bereft of the physical trappings of our society, often find it easier to find faith. In the slums of South America or Africa people flock to churches, mosques and other houses of worship perhaps because, although they may have little else, they have the one thing that is real. They have God.

1 comment:

  1. Makes one wonder who and where is civilization. We have more here in the west, but we are not more......more civilized, more compassionate, more aware. I have had similar awarenesses upon coming back to Canada and to other cities after being in countries in Asia and Africa...overwhelmed by the houses....numbers and sizes, also vehicles and noise.....excesses all but no excess of civilization.