The first time I left the United States, I was traveling as a student in the Middle East. Like many who leave home only to learn as much about their own culture as the one they have journeyed to, I quickly found myself a student of much more than language, history, and religion. So often it is in the experience of life outside your familiar world that the first glimpses of your own worldview come into focus. I was soon troubled by the previously unconsidered thought of how much my environment shaped my understanding of the world, life, faith, and God. Everything suddenly seemed so much more complicated than it was before.
Though the questions dredged up within this new world would plague my thought-life for years to come, the experience was eventually eye-opening. But in the midst of it, I was an inconsolable muddle of doubt. Did I really know anything authentically? Could anyone really know that God is real? And if this was the land of Christ’s beginnings, where were all of the Christians? On a particularly despairing day of questions, I went to the library bemoaning my loss of simplicity and hoping for some clarity in the trusted form of words. I gathered a few philosophy books and papers on early Christianity and sat down to read. It was at this library and in the midst of this frustrated morning when I met a monk named Petri.
Petri listened to my troubled doubts about the God I thought I knew and the world that seemed so full of people contradicting this knowledge, seeing other gods, or attesting to contrary information. He responded with gentle questioning: Could God not be a greater mystery than what fills the small places you hold in mind? Did Christ come to bring ease or help or answers? Or was truth the measure, in the form of a person? And then he told me not to despair of a complicated world, but to pray instead to see. “The world of souls is a mysterious place after all. But where you see an eye of the kingdom, rejoice. For God is near.”
At the time, it was a comfort (and a Finnish monk in Jerusalem was an unlikely comforter) to hear a fellow believer remind me that God is beyond my ability to make logical sense of everything, while affirming that God who came near in spirit and truth wills to be known even today. But as I struggled under the weight of a crumbling worldview, I don’t think I fully realized the relief his words offered—like pillars to a faltering house—until I returned to the gospel I had doubted.
Petri was quoting Jesus. To a crowd full of many perspectives, opinions, and creeds, Jesus spoke of eyes and light. He told a group of religious men that outward religion was not enlightening, but the truth and true love of God illumines the whole person. “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (Luke 11:34-35).
Into a world of complex religious practices, differing religious philosophies, and intermingling religious beliefs Jesus came and called to those with ears to hear and eyes to see. He gently but completely crumbled worldviews and crushed expectations. Some responded with closed minds and hearts. Others were made to see.
In our complicated world, Jesus is still the light that shines in the darkness, and he is still not overcome. His light shines even in the most unlikely of places and in the darkest corners of life. Even when a worldview is crumbling, he is calling the viewer to a greater kingdom and to eyes that will truly see. Today, wherever you find the light of his truth, a kindred soul, or an eye of the kingdom, rejoice. For God is near.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.