As an old man Saint Augustine reflects on his experience of God. He recalls that as a young man he was completely oblivious to the Presence of God;
Thou wast with me, and I was not with Thee …
But he rejoices in the fact that God did not leave him in his spiritual deafness and blindness;
Thou didst call, shout, shatter my deafness;
Thou didst flash, shine, scatter my blindness.
And I drew in my breath and I pant for Thee,
I tasted Thee and I hunger and thirst.
Thou didst touch me and I burned for Thy peace (Confessions X.27)
The most significant expression of grace that a human being can receive is to have their spiritual deafness shattered and their spiritual blindness scattered. It is this initial grace that opens us up to all the others. It is this grace that is the doorway through which we pass in order to commence a relationship with God; for how could we ever have a relationship with someone that we didn’t even know existed?
It is not only the initial grace but it remains an on-going necessity in our Christian life; most of the time we live in a world that is invisible to our eyes. We need God’s help to see the reality that surrounds us – only that perspective can enable us to live appropriately.
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city.
“Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered.
“Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.”
Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes,
and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
(2 Kings 6:15-17, NIVUK)
This passage reminds us that the reception of this shattering and scattering grace is individual. Elisha knew that the servant would not be helped by Elisha’s testimony about the reality of their situation.
The servant needed to see for himself. Seeing would make all the difference. Seeing would bring the servant naturally and without effort from terror to confident expectation.
This example from the life of Elisha also makes explicit the fact that only God can bring this necessary revelation; and therefore only prayer can release it.
Which makes me wonder; when we seek to help others to come to faith, how often do we spend our time vainly trying to convince people of realities they cannot see? Would we not be better advised to spend more time praying, asking God to shatter their deafness and scatter their blindness? Once they have received this grace then we could simply guide them in the natural response, which is faith and worship.
Let us pray today that those who have never had their spiritual sight opened or their spiritual hearing unstopped.
O God continue your calling, shouting, shattering; your flashing, shining, scattering work, in hearts and minds that are spiritually deaf and blind and bring them panting, hungering, thirsting to You – the only source of satisfaction for a human soul.