This morning I went running with my dog.
We followed a dirt road through a corn field alive with singing birds before turning onto a path that winds through a stand of mature oaks and maples. Turning, we followed the same path and road back to where we began and then sprinted a final stretch beside a field filled with horses grazing in heavy mist not yet burned off by the sun. I returned home to find a house still mostly asleep. My two-year-old daughter came downstairs, and I provided her with cereal and bananas. While she ate, I sat in the early morning sunlight streaming into my living room and read the New Testament. Finished with her meal, my daughter sought me out and began happily playing with a cloth bag while I read Paul. Half way through the Epistle to the Romans I looked up to see a little figure before me, head covered with a cloth sack from which escaped delighted giggles. Setting aside the scriptures, I held and wrestled my laughing child until the house finally awoke to the new day.
Every so often I will examine the well springs of my belief. I search not for the reasons and justifications for what I hope and believe, although I am happy to offer such if asked. Rather, I try to grasp what is at the heart of my experience of God. I can push back rapidly to the joy of personal devotion: prayer, revelation, and the smell of paper and leather from the scriptures. I can capture in my mind the feeling beyond friendship — and sometimes even in its absence — of fellowship with the saints and their foibles and efforts to do God’s work. Beyond these, however, I find a deep sense of gratitude for the world. The beauty of sun, mist, dog, tree, corn, bird song, wife, and child seem so utterly gratuitous and excessive in their loveliness, beyond what I might ever reasonably expect from an indifferent universe. Reading Paul on justification, dodging the Calvinism that lurks within his lines and listening to two-year chatter over bananas and cereal, grace was experienced not as the tripartite relationship of soul, sin, and God, but rather as the gift of a world of great preciousness to an unworthy man.