On the day after my first son was born, I stood at the discharge counter; only KJ wasn’t going home. We needed to transfer him to the children’s hospital trauma center. The night before a kind doctor had explained to us that our son was a very sick little boy, needing 3-4 operations the first year to correct five things wrong with his heart. When I told this to the woman behind the desk, she suddenly stopped, got this unworldly look in her eyes, and grabbed my arm. Then she prayed, but it was nothing like anything I had ever heard before. It was as though in that moment God opened wide a door, a place I suspected she had gone many times before, and we stepped into the presence of the Healer, the Miracle Worker. I was limp with fear, tired with red eyes from crying. But her faith brought me into God’s presence, and I heard her ask Him for a miracle. “You can do this for this broken father,” she prayed. “I just know you will!” An hour later, a doctor was yelling at a nurse to “get the right x-rays for the Young baby.” I’ll never forget her response as she bellowed down the hall, “those are the x-rays!” My son was healed of all five issues in a single moment of miracle.
When the door to contemplative prayer opens, we will see an image of Jesus as Son of man. Emptied of some of His power, but not all. Healing miracles, wisdom, perfect love in his wake, clothed in skin, so we can imagine more than solve, seeing this amazing figure in a relationship that can be touched, and pondered. The value of Jesus seen as Son of Man is that he is at once touchable, knowable, but at the same time still mysterious. That is what keeps us wanting more. It removes the possibility of creating a God of our activity. It keeps us face to face as curious toddlers peeking into a door where all the presents of Christmas are stored.
It can feel daunting to ponder God, too mysterious, too holy. But to see him as Son of man, ahh that’s the beginning of the journey to understand his mysteries. While we marvel over his miracles, mirror his acts of compassion, and try hard to understand incarnation, we see a very human person walking out God’s will upon the pitch of Galilean soil. Sandals on, cloak tight, gaggle of learners behind, the sun beating down, his dark skin, hands calloused. A real human this second Adam. A bonified breathing carpenter, whose life, for every moment he was here among us, pointed to the miracle that God did indeed visit, to settle once for all that man no longer had to strive for perfection, but with the Spirit of this God/Man, could ripen under the sun of God’s patient leading. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” so said Jesus. Not a test to ace, but more like a peach, ripened under the drench of summer sun. We ripen in the place where contemplative prayer takes us.
The practice and discipline of contemplation will bring a greater understanding of God’s will, a clearer image of Him, and a more robust relationship based on the Spirit’s role as teacher, comforter, and impartial referee. But don’t let those be your goal. The outcome of contemplative worship rests solely in the hands of the One who sees the whole parade, from first float to final baton, and knows when we need an unobstructed view, and when we do not. That’s faith in action, His test in helping us rest when it feels like it’s been a while since results matched our efforts. He’s teaching us that knowledge falls away beyond our sight into mystery the closer we move toward him.
But it all starts with contemplative practice that brings us face to face with the Son of Man. A tangible view of God walking the hard scrabble roads of a fallen world, which in turn will train our faith to see Him, when out of nowhere the land falls away from under our feet.