I put off reading A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God for almost twenty years. (I suppose my years are showing.) Yesterday, I cracked the spine, and there I read some of the most beautiful writing on experiencing the presence of God. One passage in particular–a passage on the real man–captured me. Today, I’m recasting that passages in my own words.
I suppose the foundational question for today’s piece is this: In a digital world, a world of avatars and personal branding, what does it mean to be real?
The Simple Real.
There are simple, devout men and women who know the solid state of the world around them—the atoms that build molecules, the molecules that hold hands, link arms, come together in the solidarity of the ground, the ice crystal, the rose bush, this desk. In the morning, they feel the firm mattress, the cold stone floor, the cool water on the washcloth. They know the secret—this is the real world, not a world of bytes, or megabytes, or terabytes. Could the recognition of this solidarity be divine wisdom? Could it be the antidote to doubt? Yes; just ask them.
Be like him, the man who stands in the dirt, wind in his hair, rain soaking impenetrable skin, pointing always to what is real. Be the woman who cannot bear to look at the burning sun, who always gazes at night’s unhid stars. Be like them, the father and daughter dancing to the band’s song.
Know their fear—lightning splitting the forest with fire, the thunder that rattles the brain. Remember the pain of your wife as your firstborn divided her, divided time; remember how soon that pain melted into joy. Remember the pain of your husband after the layoff, the way his joy in the new gig is unmatched. (This river of joy and pain–what could be more real?) Eat; drink; taste; touch. Go into your yard in the early evening; lie in the grass; know that the ground is a place for rooting, for building actual things. Tomorrow, that ground will still be there, as it was the day before, and the day before that. It will be there when you close your eyes. It will be there when you no longer breath. Live in the perpetuity of that ground; take joy in it. Sing praise.
Original quote by A.W. Tozer:
“The sincere plain man knows that the world is real. He finds it here when he wakes to consciousness, and he knows that he did not think it into being. … By the deep wisdom of life, he is wiser than a thousand men who doubt. He stands upon the earth and feels the wind and rain in his face and he knows that they are real. He sees the sun by day and the stars by night. He sees the hot lightning play out of the dark thundercloud. He hears the sound of nature and cries of human joy and pain. These he knows are real. He lies down on the cool earth at night and has no fear that it will prove illusory or fail him while he sleeps. In the morning the firm ground will be under him, the blue sky above him and the rocks and trees around him as when he closed his eyes the night before. So he lives and rejoices in a world of reality.”
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