Bridging the Divide
Sound waves sneak through unsealed cracks. A narrow corridor, carved from solid rock, leads the words towards their intended audience. Precise words dance along the imperfections in the rock, creating a methodic echo from a single utterance. In a moment, the sharp command reaches its target with absolute force. Homing missiles and tidal waves have yet to achieve the accuracy and impetus of this single sentence. Hair cells in the ear bow to the might of the words; long silent eardrums begin to rattle more-and-more with each blast from the repetition of the echo. An electrical spark fires in the synapse of a nerve that has lost its charge. Insistent auditory nerves create a domino effect in a brain that has grown silent as each new nerve enlivens. The electrical propulsion builds momentum as it snowballs through the body before finally reaching the target of the words. Electric words jolt the heart alive; Lazarus gasps for air.
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Viktor Frankl, in his book The Doctor and the Soul (1965), provides the reader with an interesting take on how the human eyes work in tandem to provide a scope of view. He notes that each eye is its own entity that sends its singles to the brain. Each eye is its own independent entity and has complete autonomous functioning from the other eye. The separate visual singles are sent to the brain, where the brain patches the two different frames of view into one single picture. His point is that two independent entities can work together in such perfect unity that the viewer only rarely realizes the limits of his or her perception.
A.H. Maslow (1970) explains, "It is because both science and religion have been too narrowly conceived, and have been too exclusively dichotomized and separated from each other, that they have been seen to be two mutually exclusive worlds" (p. 11). So, taking Frankl's analogy of the eye and Maslow's dichotomization of science and religion, we can begin to piece together a framework wherein two seemingly independent, contrasting structures can work hand in hand. For the purpose of this discussion, the focus will simply aim to stitch together a framework wherein one can see how the spiritual and physical can work together.
In Mark 11, Jesus sends his disciples to fetch a colt, which he will ride for what has come to be known as the Triumphal Entry. Mark 11:4 says, "And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him" (King James Version). So, using the literal words of the King James Version, we find that the disciples found the colt, which would be used to carry Jesus, in a place where two ways meet. The same is true today; the most effective conduit for carrying the power of the Gospel is in the place where a flow of the Spirit meets a balanced understanding of wisdom and knowledge in the physical.
So, the obvious question is posed, "How does one merge the spiritual and the physical." The answer is one that I must admit I do not fully have. There is a reason why so many to this day assert that the Spiritual and physical are dichotomous. I wholeheartedly believe that it is possible to merge the two through an active commitment to following the leading of the Holy Ghost, while still holding on to a root of balanced normality in everyday living. God has called us to use both our faith and our minds. It is imperative that one maintains an anchor in the Apostle's doctrine while seeking to explore the depths of Spirituality and broaden their horizons of understanding and intellect. In the words of Galileo Galilee, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." So, how do all of these ideas come back around to our initial story of Lazarus' resurrection?
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The story at the beginning of this article is from the account of Lazarus' resurrection. John 11:43-44 says, "Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!' And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go'" (KJV). There are two points I want to make in conclusion.
First, Lazarus was dead. Physically, there was no hope of ever hearing his voice seeing his smile in person again. Lazarus was gone. Yet, Jesus intervened the natural with the supernatural. His words untethered the chains of death and brought breath back into vacant lungs. However, it is worth noting again that Lazarus was dead, and dead men do not hear. Jesus directs his words to a man who physically is unable to receive the word — dead men don't hear. So, one can conclude that the Word of God supernaturally transcends the natural.
Secondly, Lazarus emerges from the tomb — alive. He is a miracle walking, yet he is still bound with graveclothes. He is a supernaturally alive, but physically bound. Too many people come into our churches on a weekly basis, receive the Holy Ghost and are baptized in the name of Jesus, resurrected into new life, yet walk out of our doors Sunday afternoon still bound with the physical chains of addiction, tradition, mentality, or any other aspect of humanity's depravity. Mark 11, and the resurrection of Lazarus, provides those with a desire to be used in the ministry of the church to see that yes, it is our goal to get people to repent, filled with the Holy Ghost, and baptized in Jesus name, but that it not where the road ends — it's where it begins.
Jesus did the miracle of resurrecting Lazarus, but the disciples had to do the work of freeing him from the physical bounds of the grave. An active praxis of merging the Spiritual and the physical, like Frankl's eye analogy, means we must rely on the power of God while seeking to do the physical work of the Kingdom. Books like John Stott's Between Two Worlds reminds us that those involved in formal ministry stand in the gulf between eternity and everyday life. Like a tree, our branches must daily reach higher to grasp the glory of heaven, while our roots grow deeper in the soil of this life.
Today, you can make active strides to work towards the place where two ways meet, the place where Spirituality and natural human existence converge. My father commonly says, "Observation is the first level of revelation." Take a step back and observe your life. Maybe you could designate a few more minutes to prayer each day. Maybe you can finally pick up that book you have wanted to read. I urge you to take the step today.