This evening, my daughters and their friend decided to put on a play for me and their friend’s parents. We gathered on the couch as they proceeded with ribbon dancing, princess costumes, and butterfly wings.
The play was called “The Wicked Witch, the Fairy Princess, and the Loyal Knight.” It was beautiful.
More method than Daniel Day Lewis walking around thinking he was Abraham Lincoln for a year and a half, these three girls were completely absorbed in their characters. They were their characters.
Unbidden, the thought suddenly came to me that this is what God is doing all the time. God appears to us, as us. He appears to creation, as creation. The playwright not only wrote himself into the play, He is the play. He is the stage, and the actors, and the audience, and the hum emanating from the spotlight, and the orchestra conductor’s heartbeat.
If this doesn’t click, ponder this question: Where does the presence of God end? Where, exactly, are its limits?
Either God is limited or He’s unlimited.
Either He is everywhere or He isn’t.
And if God is unlimited then He is completely united with you. Every muscle fiber, every skin cell, every atom that makes up “you” completely 100% One with Divine Presence. “The one being joined to the Lord is one Spirit with Him,” as the Apostle Paul wrote.
That. Is. Good. News.
The analogy of the play is helpful to me for grasping this concept, as we keep in mind that we are made in the likeness of God (Gen. 1:27). Because a natural question would be, “If all things are One, why does the world appear to be filled with all these different objects?” A part of the why is right there in children’s desire to pretend; to get so absorbed in the world they’ve created in their own minds that they temporarily forget they’re pretending.
At first glance, adults appear to tragically lose their ability and desire to pretend. But if you look closer, you see most of us just change the kind of pretending we do. Almost all of us are emotionally affected by fiction (in movies, for example). Sadness when watching a tragedy, excitement when watching action, fear when watching horror, etc.
On one level, we know that we’re just looking at flashing red, green, and blue lights and listening to audio that was recorded months or years ago by actors who are pretending to be fictional characters. But on the other hand, we’re immersed in the story as if we were watching “real” events unfold. We cry, we laugh, we scream, we empathize.
So, as creatures made in God’s image, I believe our desire to pretend and get absorbed in a story is a direct reflection of what God desires. God has chosen to experience the world within Himself through us, as us.
Every moment of triumph, love, ecstasy. Every moment of pain, rejection, heartbreak.
“God was in Christ. Reconciling the world to himself.”
The Greek word the Apostle Paul uses there for “reconciling” is katallassōn, which is a form of the word for a husband and wife getting back together after having been estranged from each other. A good focus for prayer/meditation, if that sparks your heart.
The concept of creating your own world just so you can experience it may sound kinda weird, but let me point out that you do the exact same thing all the time.
At night, when you dream, you see the dreamworld from a singular perspective (basically, you’re distinctly “you” in most of your dreams). There are often other people in the dream and always a setting in which the dream takes place (a forest, a school, etc.). But you still see those “other” people and the setting as outside yourself. “You” are looking at them from “your” perspective, but of course all of them and all of it are you.
The people and the setting are all within your own mind. Inseparable from you. Created by you. But you experience them as outside you, which is just an illusion.
Is it possible that our experience in this world isn’t so much different? What if God gave us the gift of dreaming as a glimpse into the true nature of the world He created? Maybe, as the modern British nondual teacher Rupert Spira posited when he was 7 years old, “we’re all inside God’s dream.”
Go figure that we’d have to fall asleep and stop thinking in order to wake up and understand…