There is a wonderful but simple verse in Ecclesiastes (3.11) that tells us, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart.”
In a very real sense, the facts of God’s unfathomable being are found in everything before our eyes. That we have eyes to see and minds to even attempt to contemplate things beyond our capacity is yet another fact of God’s creative ingenuity.
When he made us in his own image, God planted, deep within our minds, the ability not only to see but also to feel and hear and taste the life of his creation all around us. He accomplished this by specifically designing our physical minds with a mechanism to reinforce the deep spiritual experiences he performs in our lives.
Here’s how it works. Humans are born with a collection of powerful emotional reinforcements built into the apparatus of our brains. Science tells us we delight in seeing and tasting and feeling good things because the brain limbic system sends hormones that bathe mind neuroreceptors with a kind of chemical reward. How amazing is that!
Beyond the science, the real genius in all of this lies in God’s intended use of the brain-reward process to enable us to experience his spiritual work in our lives. It’s something I call – for lack of a better term – the physical manifestation of spiritual reality.
For example, when we take the cup and bread of communion, God allows us to experience Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for us. How? By eating, drinking, tasting, and consuming the physical symbols of Jesus’ flesh and blood.
Baptism is another example of the physical manifestation of a spiritual reality. When we go into the water, Scripture says, we are “buried” with Jesus “through baptism into death.” Coming out of the water, we are also “raised up” with Jesus “through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
If you think about it, God has planted in us many other ways to physically experience spiritual reality. A few that come to mind include:
- marriage, wherein the physical joining of a man and a woman, Jesus declared, is intended to be a solemn experience in that “they are no longer two, but one flesh.”
- the night sky, by which the heavens that “declare the glory of God,” display a seemingly endless physical representation of God’s eternity and infinite presence.
- worship, in which the act of praising God, when done with sincerity, summons an indescribably inward joy, giving us a glimpse of the heavenly host singing “the song of the Lamb.”
Or consider this. After a long, dark Chicago winter, when that first day of vivid sunlight bathes you in sudden warmth and brightness, what do you feel?
Even that sunlight is a physical manifestation of a spiritual reality: heaven, which “has no need of the sun … for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.”